Canadian Manufacturing

Worker pain: a drain on Canadian economy

Pain-related costs could hit $10B

TORONTO—When pain strikes, it’s not just employees who suffer, but business productivity and the overall economy, according to a new survey from the Canadian Pain Society.

The survey found more than 56 per cent of Canadians experienced moderate to severe chronic pain in the past three months.

That’s costing workplaces in lost productivity and absenteeism.

Nearly a third of respondents reported losing income, booking sick days, and being less productive because of pain. Some said it’d even cost them their jobs.

This was especially the case among young workers aged 18 to 34—one in five experienced a loss in productivity at work because of pain.

Alberta had the most pain sufferers, with 68 per cent of respondents reporting pain compared to the national average of 56 per cent.

Pain was also prevalent in B.C. and the Prairies, while Quebec experienced the least pain at 50 per cent, followed by Ontario with 55 per cent.

Dr. Mary Lynch, president of the Canadian Pain Society, said the higher reports of pain in Western Canada could be due to the more physical nature of jobs in that part of the country, such as forestry or farming.

“Positions that involve physical labor will see a greater impact of pain,” she says, adding the same is likely true for manufacturing sectors.

Labor-intensive positions also employ more young people, which could explain the high rate of pain among workers in the 18-34 range.

The survey noted that direct health care costs for Canada amount to more than $6 billion per year. By 2025, these costs are expected to rise to more than $10 billion per year.

“It’s costing people not only in lost-time from work but also in trying to find relief,” Dr. Lynch says.

The Canadian Pain Society is calling for better training of front-line health care workers to properly assess and treat pain before it escalates into chronic pain.

It’s also launching a Canadian Pain Strategy and inviting contributions from industry stakeholders.

In the meantime, she says employers can do their part by staying on top of safety requirements at the workplace.

“That includes early treatment for anyone who gets injured, monitoring for evidence that an injury could be moving on to chronic pain and making make sure they get the appropriate care,” Dr. Lynch says.

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