Canadian employers unaware of true breadth, impact of chronic conditions

Despite their concerns on the effect on productivity, plan sponsor are still in the dark about chronic disease

Canadian employers unaware of true breadth, impact of chronic conditions

The latest edition of the Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey has found that while 77% of plan sponsors report concern over the impact of unmanaged chronic disease on the productivity of their workforce, there is still a lack of awareness among plan sponsors of the problem’s true scope.

Employers interviewed by Sanofi Canada said that only 29% of their workforce suffer from a chronic condition. However, 58% of plan members surveyed by the company reported being diagnosed with at least one chronic condition or disease. Incidence of chronic disease was more pronounced among those aged 55 to 64 (67%) and those in poor financial health (66%).

The top five chronic conditions facing plan members were high blood pressure, mental illness, high cholesterol, arthritis, and diabetes. Citing figures from the Arthritis Society, Sanofi Canada said arthritis is the number one chronic disease in Canada, affecting 20% of Canadians aged 15 and older; 56% of those afflicted are under the age of 65, making the disease a leading cause of disability claims in the working population.

Looking at factors affecting productivity, 47% of employees with chronic conditions say they’ve missed work or found it harder to do their jobs as a result; the percentage rises to 72% among those with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. Plan members with chronic disease reported feelings of tiredness or fatigue (58%), difficulty concentrating (41%), taking time off for healthcare appointments (39%), leaving work early because they feel ill (30%), taking longer breaks (25%), and taking time off to routinely monitor/manage their condition (21%).

When asked about the employee-related health information they receive, 58% of plan sponsors said they receive claims data analyses identifying the main disease states, but only 19% say they regularly receive such information. Among large employers — those with at least 500 employees — 67% received such analyses, compared to only 44% of employers with fewer than 50 employees. Large employers were also more likely to have plans to invest more in health education in health or wellness programs in the next year (72%) than small employers (27%).

The survey found that plan sponsors who get such claims data analyses were no more likely to correctly estimate the percentage of their workforce with a chronic condition. However, 91% of such employers agree that the information helps them understand how their plans are being used. They were also more likely to have specific objectives for their health benefit plans than those who do not get claims data analyses.


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