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Chronic Pain in an Aging Workforce

Posted by Kevin Lombardo on May 29, 2018 at 5:14 PM

Pain's Impact in the Workplace

Unfortunately, pain impacts millions of people every day. Approximately 100 million people are afflicted with chronic pain, which is defined as pain lasting for more than twelve weeks. According to the Journal of Pain, the US economy spends $635 billion annually on medical costs associated with pain ($300 billion) and lost productivity due to workers living and working with long-term pain ($350 billion).

Not only is chronic pain an issue to workers physically, but also psychologically. For example, 77% of the 100 million sufferers are also depressed due to their pain. 

Other physical and psychological aspects that can be affected by chronic pain include: 

  • Basic cognitive function
  • Sleep habits
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Morale and work satisfaction
  • Social Stigmas
  • Overall quality of life

The Solution

Some workers will find their own solutions like yoga and deep tissue massages, while others may attempt to mask the pain with marijuana and pain medications. Some also allow their chronic pain to go untreated. Regardless of the chosen solution, it is important that your entity remains cognizant of the issue and addresses it in a serious manner.

Tenured Workers in the Workforce

Forty percent of those who are 55 and older make up 19% of workers in the US. The next generation has 10 million LESS people than the baby boomer generation, making it more difficult to find the right workers for key positions in the years to come. 

The older the individual, the more severe and incapacitating the injury tends to be. In 2011, a study was conducted revealing that those over 45 years of age had 25% more temporary payments, more time out/off of work and accumulated more costs for the employers. 

In an effort to take preventative measures against the detrimental effects of chronic pain, many organizations have been proactively implementing wellness programs, ergonomic solutions and onsite gyms. In order to ensure the success of these programs, organizations must gather support by senior management, eliminate any barriers that impede the program’s process, employ metrics to gauge the program’s success and ensure that the services provided are working together to provide a holistic experience.