Alternative Medicine, Worker Health, and Absenteeism in the United States
Department of Economics,
University of Waterloo,
200 University Avenue West,
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada
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.
METHODS: Using the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and propensity score matching (PSM), this study estimates the relationship between visits to CAM practitioners, health, and illness-related absenteeism.
RESULTS: In a sample of 8,820 workers, the average annual number of workdays lost due to illness is 3.69. Visiting an acupuncturist correlates with lower absenteeism among men (1.182 fewer workdays missed, p<0.05), whereas visiting a naturopathic doctor correlates with 2.359 and 2.521 fewer workdays missed for women and men, respectively (both p<0.001). Active mind-body practices, massage, chiropractic and acupuncture treatments are all significantly associated with improved health.
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