People with chronic disease work less-depression, arthritis and asthma key culprits

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that chronic diseases are associated with more days off work and/or being out of the workforce, and some of the biggest culprits are depression, arthritis and asthma.

The report, Chronic disease and participation in work, looked at selected chronic diseases to provide an estimate of the loss to the Australian economy due to reduced participation in work among people who have chronic disease.

Report author, Karen Bishop, said, 'As one might expect, chronic diseases are associated with lower participation in the labour force and more missed days of work.'

'Even after adjusting for age, people with chronic disease were 60% more likely to not be in the labour force than people without chronic disease. They were also less likely to be employed full-time, and more likely to be unemployed,' she said.

People with chronic disease who were in the labour force had, on average, about a half a day off work in the previous fortnight due to illness, compared with about a quarter of a day on average for those without chronic disease.

Of approximately 10.5 million Australians aged 25-64 years, about 33% reported at least one of the following chronic diseases: arthritis, asthma, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, diabetes and osteoporosis.

The report also found that men with chronic disease were more than twice as likely to be out of the labour force, whereas women with chronic disease were 20% more likely not participate in the labour force.

'This difference may reflect the different labour force distribution for males and females. Males are more likely to be in the labour force, and females more likely to be out of the labour force for a number of reasons, including caring and parenting,' Ms Bishop said.

Deaths of working age people from chronic disease also decreased the potential workforce.

Loss due to deaths could be primarily attributed to cancers (52%) and heart attacks (19%).

The report estimates a loss of nearly 540,000 full-time workers associated with the presence of chronic disease.

'Given that in 2004-05 the Australian full-time workforce numbered 5.7 million, a loss of half a million people represents nearly 10% of the full-time workforce,' she said.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Further information: Karen Bishop, tel. 02 6244 1085, mob. 0418 271 395.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.