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Musculoskeletal problems account for nearly half of all absences from work in EU

Muscle and joint pain costs businesses in Europe up to 240 billion a year, new research reveals.

According to a report from The Work Foundation, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are responsible for more sick days than any other health condition, accounting for nearly half (49%) of all absences from work and 60% of permanent work incapacity in the European Union.

The study, conducted across 25 European countries, found 100 million Europeans suffer from chronic musculoskeletal pain - over 40 million of whom are workers - with up to 40% having to give up work due to their condition.

Stephen Bevan, managing director of The Work Foundation, said: "MSDs clearly have a serious, negative impact on the EU workforce, as they were responsible for millions of lost working days - 9.5 million were lost in one year in the UK alone. 

"As Europe now struggles to emerge from the global recession, one consideration policy-makers should address is how labour productivity in businesses is being undermined by these often very painful conditions."

Tatiana Quadrello, senior researcher at The Work Foundation, added: "The study clearly suggests that early intervention is a key factor in allowing people with MSDs to remain in work. This has provided us with the beginnings of a potential calculation of an ‘early intervention premium' which could encourage governments and healthcare professionals to consider this when discussing intervention policies."