Endometriosis pain leads to loss of productivity in the workplace, which is the greatest economic impact of the condition, a new study in Australia has found.
Therefore, strategies to improve pain control should be a priority in this patient population to significantly decrease overall and productivity-related costs, the scientists said.
Their research, “The cost of illness and economic burden of endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain in Australia: A national online survey,” was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Previous research conducted in Europe, the U.K., and the U.S. has shown that endometriosis carries a significant economic burden, similar to or higher than the impact of heart disease and diabetes, and that most of the costs incurred are because of absences from work.
However, research about the economic impact of endometriosis and other causes of chronic pelvic pain is lacking, as is whether pain severity and other modifiable factors play a significant role in overall economic burden.
To address this gap, a team at Western Sydney University and UNSW Sydney conducted an online survey of 407 women from 18 to 45 years old, who were living in Australia and had a confirmed diagnosis of endometriosis (340 women, 84%) or chronic pelvic pain without endometriosis (67 women, 16%).
A tool developed by the World Endometriosis Research Foundation‘s EndoCost Consortium was used to determine direct healthcare and non-healthcare costs, as well as indirect costs due to productivity loss.
Results showed a significant total cost for women with chronic pelvic pain, regardless of whether they had endometriosis. This cost was $20,898 (International dollars) per woman per year in the endometriosis group, and $16,970 for women with chronic pelvic pain but no endometriosis. As reported previously, most costs were due to loss of productivity, which constituted 83.6% of total costs in women with endometriosis and 75% of total costs in the women without that diagnosis.
Total health-related costs were relatively stable across all ages, and accounted for 12.5% of overall costs from endometriosis and 19% of overall costs from other causes of chronic pelvic pain.
In the group with endometriosis, women with severe pain experienced more than six times higher total costs than women with minimal pain ($23,987 vs. $3,805). Productivity costs were 12.5-fold greater for patients with severe pain compared with those with minimal pain.
“Given [that] pain is the most significant contributor, priority should be given to improving pain control in women with pelvic pain,” the researchers wrote.
The study revealed that productivity costs in Australia were higher than previous estimates based on data from Europe, the U.K., and the U.S. The total economic burden per year in Australia for women of reproductive age was $6.50 billion.
“Women in Australia with endometriosis or other causes of chronic pelvic pain incur a substantial financial burden caused by their condition,” Mike Armour, PhD, lead author of the study, said in a news release. “As well as healthcare costs, the pain they experience can result in time off work and a reduction in productivity, both at work and outside of work.”
“This research clarifies that endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain can have considerable impact for the women affected, their carers, and the wider economy,” he added.