Background: Back pain and musculoskeletal conditions negatively affect the health-related quality of life (HRQL) of employees and generate substantial costs to employers.
Aims: To assess the cost-effectiveness of yoga for managing musculoskeletal conditions.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial evaluated an 8-week yoga programme, with a 6-month follow-up, for National Health Service (NHS) employees. Effectiveness in managing musculoskeletal conditions was assessed using repeated-measures generalized linear modelling for the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RDQ) and the Keele STarT Back Screening Tool. Cost-effectiveness was determined using area-under-the-curve linear regression for assessing HRQL from healthcare and societal perspectives. The incremental cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) was also calculated. Sickness absence was measured using electronic staff records at 6 months.
Results: There were 151 participants. At 6 months, mean differences between groups favouring yoga were observed for RDQ [-0.63 (95% CI, -1.78, 0.48)], Keele STarT [-0.28 (95% CI, -0.97, 0.07)] and HRQL (0.016 QALY gain). From a healthcare perspective, yoga yielded an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of £2103 per QALY. Given a willingness to pay for an additional QALY of £20 000, the probability of yoga being cost-effective was 95%. From a societal perspective, yoga was the dominant treatment compared with usual care. At 6 months, electronic staff records showed that yoga participants missed a total of 2 working days due to musculoskeletal conditions compared with 43 days for usual care participants.
Conclusions: Yoga for NHS employees may enhance HRQL, reduce disability associated with back pain, lower sickness absence due to musculoskeletal conditions and is likely to be cost-effective.
Keywords: Back pain; cost-effectiveness; musculoskeletal conditions; occupational health; physical activity; randomized controlled trial; return-on-investment; sickness absence; workplace; yoga.
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Occupational Medicine.