U.S. Work-Related Injuries, Illnesses Take Toll on the Till

Costs related to occupational health reach $250 billion annually, researcher says

FRIDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Job-related injuries and illnesses in the United States cost the nation an estimated $250 billion per year, according to a new study.

The figure is much higher than generally assumed and is $31 billion more than the direct and indirect costs of all cancers, $76 billion more than the costs of diabetes, and $187 billion more than the costs of stroke, the researchers say.

"It's unfortunate that occupational health doesn't get the attention it deserves," said study author J. Paul Leigh, a professor of public health sciences at the University of California, Davis. "The costs are enormous and continue to grow. And the potential for health risks are high, given that most people between the ages 22 to 65 spend 40 percent of their waking hours at work."

The costs of job-related injuries have increased by more than $33 billion (inflation adjusted) since 1992, said Leigh in a university news release.

Based on his analysis of 2007 data, Leigh estimated that there were 8,564,600 fatal and non-fatal work-related injuries that year that cost $192 billion, and 516,100 fatal and non-fatal work-related illnesses that cost $58 billion.

The estimated roughly 59,000 combined deaths from occupational injuries and diseases in 2007 was higher than all deaths from motor vehicle crashes (nearly 44,000), breast cancer (almost 41,000) or prostate cancer (about 29,000), according to the study.

The findings are a strong indication that the United States needs to place greater emphasis on reducing work-related injury and illness, Leigh said.

The study involved an analysis of more than 40 datasets from sources that track work-related injuries and illnesses along with their direct medical and indirect productivity costs. Those sources included the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He noted that workers' compensation covers less than one-quarter of the costs of workplace injuries and illnesses. Instead, employer-provided medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid pick up the bulk of the costs.

The study was published in the December issue of the The Milbank Quarterly.

More information

The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has more about workplace safety and health.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: University of California, Davis, news release, Jan. 17, 2012

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