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Absenteeism & Presenteeism

Absenteeism refers to workers being absent from the work place due to illness or other reason. Presenteeism refers to the phenomena of workers being present at the job, but not as productive as normal. Interest in the measurement of presenteeism has been driven by interest in calculating the cost burden of depression and related mental illnesses. Presenteeism accounts for much more of the cost burden than absenteeism.

Absenteeism can be measured simply by counting days absent from work. However, objective measures of presenteeism are more difficult to come by, especially in white collar work environments where worker productivity in general is difficult to measure by objective means.

Presenteeism by its nature is a subjective phenomena, and researchers have utilized employee self report measures to measure lost productivity from the worker's perspective. A review of the literature as well as analysis of data from ACORN outcomes questionnaires suggests that workers suffering from psychiatric disorders and seeking mental health services report 25% or more lost productivity.

Analysis of data from field trials of the ACORN measures indicates that adults seeking mental health services report am average of 25% lost productivity due to symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression. In contrast, the non-treatment community sample used to norm the ACORN measures reported an average of 10% lost productivity.

The analysis of ACORN measures field trials in clinical settings (n>200) reveals a significant correlation between the global distress scale and lost productivity at intake (r=.39). Likewise, improvement on the global distress scale is correlated with improvement in productivity (r=.28). Regression analysis indicates that each point improvement on the global distress scale translates to an estimated 4 hours per week gain in productivity.

Recommended reading:

A Review of Methods to Measure Health Related Productivity Loss

American Journal of Managed Care, April, 2007.
  • Brief summary: This review article is based on a systematic search of published and grey-market research literature between 1995 and 2005 on methods of estimating and monitoring productivity loss. This is an excellent article for anyone interested in how to measure productivity gains resulting from mental health treatment. The whole article is available on line (click on the title above).

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