Sept. 17, 2017

Productivity Loss from Osteoarthritis Will Cost Canadian Economy $17.5 Billion a Year by 2031

Osteoarthritis rates rising in Canada
stock photo of hip OA
Hip osteoarthritis

Rising rates of osteoarthritis (OA) will cost the Canadian economy an estimated $17.5 billion a year in lost productivity by 2031 as the disease forces greater numbers of people to stop working or work less, a study has found. The upsurge in work time loss comes just as Canadian productivity comes up against a momentous challenge: finding enough workers to replace retiring baby boomers after decades of low birth rates.

“Our findings underscore the importance of implementing public strategies to prevent OA while also developing ways to maintain the workplace productivity of people who have the disease,” Behnam Sharif, the research team lead, said. “Canada could lose a significant portion of its shrinking work force to osteoarthritis unless policies are developed now to sustain the employability of people who have pain and loss of function in their hips and knees.” Sharif is an Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute and McCaig Institute post-doctoral fellow working with Deborah Marshall at the University of Calgary, who is also a McCaig Institute member.

OA is a leading cause of chronic pain and loss of mobility in Canada and is associated with diminished productivity and increased utilization of health care resources.

The main culprits are Canada’s aging population and its rising rate of obesity. There is a strong association between OA and advancing age and OA and obesity. Statistics Canada reports almost two-thirds of Canadian adults and 23% of children are overweight or obese. “These compelling demographic trends will increase the burden of OA and the associated disability among the working age population will become substantial in the coming years,” Sharif said.

“Estimating and projecting the productivity costs of work loss due to OA are critical steps to creating public health policies for meeting the growing OA challenge,” said Marshall. “Furthermore, it is essential that we identify the segments of the population incurring high losses of productivity so that we can allocate the necessary resources to where they will produce the greatest benefit.”