Work and productivity loss related to herpes zoster

J Med Econ. 2011;14(5):639-45. doi: 10.3111/13696998.2011.607482. Epub 2011 Aug 13.


Objective: To estimate absenteeism and presenteeism-related work loss due to herpes zoster (HZ) among working individuals of 50-64 years of age.

Methods: This telephone survey included individuals with ≥1 insurance claim for HZ in the past year in administrative claims data from five US commercial health plans. Demographic information, characteristics of the HZ episode; impact of HZ on activities of daily living (ADL), and work days loss and productivity were surveyed.

Results: Responses were obtained from 153 of 1654 individuals who were contacted and were eligible for the survey (9.3%). Most had moderate or severe HZ (72.6%). Close to two-thirds reported some impact of HZ on ADL such as shopping, housework/chores, and social engagement. About half (51%) reported missing work due to HZ, and about an equal percentage reported little or much worse productivity than usual due to HZ while at work. On average, age-adjusted absenteeism- and presenteeism-related work loss was estimated at 31.6 hours, and 84.4 hours, respectively, with a combined work loss of 116.0 hours per HZ episode in a working person of 50-64 years of age. Work loss tended to increase with age and the duration and severity of the HZ episode.

Conclusions: The study documents a substantial societal burden of HZ-related work and productivity loss. This is important information to take into consideration, in addition to the direct medical burden, when making policy decisions around vaccine prevention of HZ.

Limitations: The study may potentially be subject to selection bias due to low survey response rate and since only those cases who sought care for a HZ episode were captured. The study may also be subject to respondent recall bias. Finally, since some respondents could still be having the HZ episode at the time of survey, the study may potentially have under-estimated the work and productivity loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Herpes Zoster / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sick Leave / trends*
  • United States