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Burden of COPD on Older Employees Is Substantial

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Work productivity and quality of life are significantly worse in workers aged ≥65 years with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared with those without COPD, according to survey data presented at Chest 2010.

Researchers examined the health outcomes of 3358 older employees (aged ≥65 years) using the US 2009 National Health and Wellness Survey, an online cross-sectional survey. Of these employees, 297 self-reported a diagnosis of COPD and 3061 did not.

Outcomes measured included health-related quality of life (QOL), healthcare resource use, and work productivity and activity, measured by absenteeism, presenteeism, overall work loss, and activity impairment.

After adjusting for demographic and health history variables, older workers with COPD had significantly lower scores on the mental component summary measure of health-related QOL (mean scores: 52.05 for patients with COPD vs 53.37 for those without; range 0-100, with higher scores indicating better health). The physical component score was also lower in patients with COPD (mean: 40.29 for those with COPD vs 47.19 for those without).

In addition, older workers with COPD had higher levels of presenteeism, defined as the percentage of health-related impairment while at work in the past 7 days.

Table: Impact of COPD on Older Employees (Age ≥65)

Overall work loss and activity impairment were also significantly worse for older workers with COPD than those without the disease (Table).

“These results highlight the substantial burden of COPD in the elderly US workforce, particularly as it relates to on-the-job productivity, an effect not often documented in the literature,” the researchers observed. The research team was led by Marco daCosta DiBonaventura, PhD, Health Sciences Practice, Kantar Health, New York City.

There were no significant differences in the number of emergency department visits, hospitalizations, or traditional healthcare provider visits between the 2 groups.

“Effective programs and policies may be necessary to better manage COPD in the US workforce, particularly in the elderly population,” the researchers suggested.

Last modified: August 30, 2021