Background: In the European Union (EU), between 44 and 76 million individuals of the 217 million EU employees suffer from allergic disease of the airways or the skin. Up to 90% of these persons are untreated or insufficiently treated. This has major socio-economic consequences such as absence from work (absenteeism), particularly reduced productivity at work (presenteeism).
Methods: We used published literature and online statistical information from Eurostat and Eurofound to assess the costs of allergic disease to society.
Results: Allergies have an impact on direct, indirect, intangible and opportunity costs. Most importantly, for the EU, avoidable indirect costs per patient insufficiently treated for allergy range between €55 and €151 billion per annum due to absenteeism and presenteeism, that is, €2405 per untreated patient per year. On the other hand, appropriate therapy for allergic diseases is available at comparatively low costs at an average of €125 per patient annually, equalling only 5% of the costs of untreated disease, allowing potential savings of up to €142 billion.
Conclusions: A better care for allergies based on guideline-based treatment would allow Europe's economy substantial savings. In addition, allergies have an impact on learning and performance at school and university, leading to opportunity costs for society. This cannot be calculated moneywise but will have an impact in a modern knowledge-based society. Still allergies are trivialized in society, noting that the costs of therapy are paid by patients and healthcare services, whereas economic savings are made by employers and society. A change of this mindset is urgently needed.
Keywords: allergic rhinitis; allergy; costs; socio-economic costs; urticaria.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.