Allergic rhinitis imposes a substantial economic burden on society, with indirect costs of productivity loss that are larger than the direct healthcare costs. All studies carried out in allergic rhinitis combine to indicate that patients with this disease have an impaired work performance. However, it has not been known whether allergic rhinitis can induce days off work and how its impact compares to asthma.
In a large occupational cohort study recently published online by Kauppi et al. (Respiratory Medicine 2010, doi:10.1016/j.rmed.2010.05.006), the risk of absenteeism due to illness (sick leave) associated with allergic rhinitis with or without asthma was examined in Finland. The study population of over 48,000 subjects was drawn from government employees in 10 towns and 21 public hospitals who consented to link their employer’s sick leave records to a survey they completed on allergic rhinitis and asthma. The study periods were 2000-2002 and 2004 and the survey collected information for the previous calendar year.
Overall, subjects with rhinitis took an average of 3.1 sick days/person/year more than the comparison group, while subjects with asthma took 9.4 days more, and subjects with both took 9.7 additional sick days.
To our knowledge this is the first prospective longitudinal study reporting sickness absences in public sector employees with allergic rhinitis, asthma or both. This study found an increased risk of sickness absences for those employees who reported physician-diagnosed self-reported allergic rhinitis, asthma or both of these conditions combined.
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