Job-related injuries and illnesses are more common than most people believe, costing the nation far more than AIDS or Alzheimer’s disease and at least as much as cancer or heart disease, a new report says.
“Occupational injuries and illnesses are an insufficiently appreciated contributor to the total burden of health care costs in the United States,” researchers say in today’s issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The researchers combined many sources of government and other data for what they believe are the first national estimates of jobrelated injuries and illnesses in a single year.
In 1992, about 6,500 Americans died and 13.2 million were hurt from work-related causes, said the researchers, led by J. Paul Leigh of the economics department at San Jose State University in California.
That toll averages to 18 deaths and 36,000 injuries a day, compared with government estimates of 17 workers fatally hurt each day and 9,000 nonfatally injured.
Occupational illnesses - such as lung diseases and lead poisoning - caused 60,300 deaths and 862,200 illnesses in 1992, the researchers said. That averages to 165 deaths and more than 2,300 new ailments daily, compared to government figures of 137 and 1,095 daily in those categories, respectively.
In all, the direct costs of injuries and illnesses totaled $65 billion in 1992 ($178 million a day), the researchers said. Indirect costs - including lost wages - were $106 billion ($290 million a day), they said. That made the total $171 billion ($468 million a day.)
That is far more than the 1992 cost of AIDS, which was $30 billion, excluding the costs of administrating worker’s compensation, Social Security or health insurance benefits. Occupational injuries and illnesses were $155 billion, excluding those administrative costs, the researchers said.
Similarly, the economic burden of Alzheimer’s disease in 1992 was much less than work-related deaths and injuries. Alzheimer’s totaled $67.3 billion, including administrative costs, the researchers said.
And for heart and all other blood-vessel diseases, the total was $164.3 billion. For cancer, it was $170.7 billion. For musculoskeletal diseases, such as arthritis and osteoporosis, it was $149 billion, researchers said.