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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, October 1, 2007

Back and neck pain, depression take toll in 'lost days'

Mental and physical illnesses have "staggering" costs that are measured not only directly in health care dollars but also indirectly, in days lost when people are unable to carry out their usual activities, a new study reports.

More than half of American adults suffered from one or more of 30 conditions that kept them from their typical functions at work or at home for an average of 32.1 days a year, according to a survey analyzed by researchers including Ronald C. Kessler and Minnie Ames of Harvard Medical School. That translates into a total of 3.6 billion days a year, with mental disorders accounting for 1.3 billion days lost.

Chronic back and neck pain led to the most days of disability (1.2 billion), followed by major depression (387 million), the researchers found. The national survey’s results, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, appear in the October issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"The staggering amount of health-related disability associated with mental and physical conditions should be considered in establishing priorities for the allocation of health care and research resources," the authors conclude.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 04:00 PM
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