Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Study shows the high costs of colds in North America

The cost of colds and the flu weighs heavily on Canadian
and US workers, a new study shows.
A Canadian study on the impact of colds and flu on school absenteeism, the workplace and the economy found that the costs are staggering.

In the first study of its kind, the researchers reviewed published clinical trials, studies and research projects from more than 300 researchers. 

The report with the title "Why the Common Cold and Flu Matter" pointed out the following highlights.
  • 1/3 of Canadian adults have a sore throat, cold or flu in any given month. More common in women than men.  
  • 2/3 of Canadian adults experiencing the first signs of a cold or flu used some type of self-treatment. Women were more likely to self treat and also consult a doctor as compared to men.  
  • 1/5 of Canadian adults ignore symptoms altogether  
  • Cough/cold remedies are the second most commonly used medications in Canada.  
  • Canadians spend more than $300 million a year on over-the-counter cold and flu treatments and prescription antibiotics which, for the most part, neither "...ameliorate symptoms nor change the course of the illnesses."

The researchers say prevention can make a big difference in reducing the impact of colds and the flu.

While children in schools and daycare easily spread infections and colds, adults are also to blame, the study found, as many continue to go to work when they are sick and the spreading diseases lead to much greater productivity losses and increased costs for companies.

In fact, 83% of participants in a U.S. survey on work and illness say they continued to attend work or school while experiencing symptoms of an influenza-like illness. 

This behavior adds up to a significant economic cost as researchers cite direct costs due to lost productivity from colds at $25 billion in the U.S. 

Taking into consideration both indirect (lost productivity) and direct (doctor visits and medicine) costs, of colds, the figure in the U.S. annually is $40 billion.

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