A new report shows the flu is more of a pain than just a runny nose and a fever. According to a Walgreens study, last flu season resulted in 100 million lost works days, along with nearly $7 billion in lost wages and 32 million missed school days.
These findings, the first of a two-part Walgreens flu impact report series, underscore the ramifications the flu and ill-timed illness can have beyond people’s health – from missed work and lost income to parenting challenges.
On average, 13 percent of Americans gets the flu every year, with active flu seasons seeing closer to 20 percent (or more than 62 million people), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“When it comes to the flu and your own personal calendar, there’s no planning for the many things it could impact,” says Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness. “Immunization rates have climbed and last season more than 40 percent of the U.S. population received flu shots. This report helps to reinforce the importance of getting a flu shot and how that small step toward protection can provide peace of mind when it comes to other important aspects of our lives.”
Flu and the workplace
In addition to the 100 million work days lost due to flu-related illness last season, more than one-third of those days would have been uncompensated with the costs borne by the employee, resulting in $6.8 billion in lost wages.
When it comes to sick time and employers’ costs, nearly two-thirds of total missed work days would have been employer-paid, resulting in more than $10 billion to companies’ bottom lines due to lost productivity. Additionally, nearly 2 million business trips were also canceled last season, based on survey projections.
And while some followed doctor recommendations and stayed home from work while sick, an overwhelming majority – nearly 80 percent– say at some point they still went into work. As for “worker’s remorse,” 60 percent said they were fairly concerned they would expose others to illness.
And for some working parents, the 32 million school days that the report projects were missed due to flu last season can also translate to missed work days and other challenges. More than one-third of respondents with children say they need to make alternative childcare arrangements when their children are sick, while 40 percent would need to take time off from work to care for a sick child.
Taking all the information into account, nearly one-third of respondents spent between $251 and $1,000 on treating the flu last season.