Victims of heart attack and stroke returning to work are 25% less productive in first year: Study

Washington D.C: On the occasion of World Health Day, new research states that the full financial cost of a heart attack or stroke is twice as much as the medical costs when lost work time for patients and caregivers is included.

The finding illustrated by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology points that victims of heart attack and stroke who return to work are 25% less productive in their first year back. In the year after the event, heart patients lost 59 workdays and caregivers lost 11 workdays, for an average cost of €13,953, and ranging from €6,641 to €23,160 depending on the country.

After a stroke, 56 workdays were lost by patients and 12 by caregivers, for an average €13,773, ranging from €10,469 to €20,215.

Professor Kornelia Kotseva, the author who conducted the study said: “Patients in our study returned to work, meaning their events were relatively mild. Some still had to change jobs or careers, or work less, and caregivers lost around 5% of work time. Not included in our study are those with more severe events who quit work altogether and presumably needed even more help from family and friends.”

The study enrolled 394 patients from seven European countries – 196 with the acute coronary syndrome (86% heart attack, 14% unstable chest pain) and 198 with stroke – who returned to work 3 to12 months after the event. Patients completed a questionnaire2,3 during a visit to a cardiologist, neurologist, or stroke physician. Hours lost were valued according to country labour costs in 2018. The average age of patients was 53 years.

There were some patients who lost their productivity during the process which is consistent across countries: 61% was the initial hospitalisation and sick leave after discharge; 23-29% was absence from work after the initial sick leave (for medical appointments and shorter sick leave); 9-16% was being unable to work at full capacity because of feeling unwell.

Even more, workdays were lost in the first year after the event for patients with previous events or established cardiovascular disease. When adding days lost by patients and caregivers together, this was 80 for the acute coronary syndrome and 73 for stroke, costing €16,061 and €14,942, respectively.

In the study, 27% of heart patients and 20% of stroke patients were obese, while 40% of heart patients and 27% of stroke patients were current smokers.


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