Alternative medicine, worker health, and absenteeism in the United States

September 15, 2017   |   Currents in Integrative Healthcare

Health related absenteeism costs an estimated $153 billion annually in the United States (Witters and Agrawal, 2011). Chronic conditions (major contributors to absenteeism) are often successfully managed by Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). As CAM becomes an increasingly visible component of healthcare, firms may wish to consider whether CAM therapies can help reduce illness-related absenteeism. This paper aims to extend the literature on healthcare utilization and absenteeism by exploring whether CAM treatment is associated with fewer workdays missed due to illness.Estimates suggest that some CAM modalities correlate with lower absenteeism, and many correlate with improved health. Two limitations of this study are worth noting. First, a small proportion of the sample uses CAM, limiting the generalizability of results. Second, if health conscious individuals are more likely to use CAM, then health attitudes may be contributing to lower absenteeism among the treated. Further research is needed to identify a causal relationship between CAM treatment, health, and absenteeism.

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