Estimates of the economic burden of work injuries and diseases can help policymakers prioritize occupational health and safety policies and interventions in order to best allocate scarce resources. Several attempts have been made to estimate these economic burdens at the national level, but most have not included a comprehensive list of cost components, and none have attempted to implement a standard approach across several countries. The aim of our study is to develop a framework for estimating the economic burden of work injuries and diseases and implement it for selected European Union countries.
We develop an incidence cost framework using a bottom-up approach to estimate the societal burden of work injuries and diseases and implement it for five European Union countries. Three broad categories of costs are considered—direct healthcare, indirect productivity and intangible health-related quality of life costs. We begin with data on newly diagnosed work injuries and diseases from calendar year 2015. We consider lifetime costs for cases across all categories and incurred by all stakeholders. Sensitivity analysis is undertaken for key parameters.
Indirect costs are the largest part of the economic burden, then direct costs and intangible costs. As a percentage of GDP, the highest overall costs are for Poland (10.4%), then Italy (6.7%), The Netherlands (3.6%), Germany (3.3%) and Finland (2.7%). The Netherlands has the highest per case costs (€75,342), then Italy (€58,411), Germany (€44,919), Finland (€43,069) and Poland (€38,918). Costs per working-age population are highest for Italy (€4956), then The Netherlands (€2930), Poland (€2793), Germany (€2527) and Finland (€2331).
Our framework serves as a template for estimating the economic burden of work injuries and diseases across countries in the European Union and elsewhere. Results can assist policymakers with identifying health and safety priority areas based on the magnitude of components, particularly when stratified by key characteristics such as industry, injury/disease, age and sex. Case costing can serve as an input into the economic evaluation of prevention initiatives. Comparisons across countries provide insights into the relevant performance of health and safety systems.