Special Report

States Where People Are Too Sick to Work


To determine the states where people are too sick to work, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of four measures closely tied with work absenteeism due to illness or injury.

Two of the index components are the average number of days of poor mental and physical health as reported by adults. These figures came from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program.

The index also includes the estimated state-level cost of missed work due to illness or injury per worker. 24/7 Wall St. estimated the total state level cost of absenteeism based on the findings of a 2015 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, “State-Level Estimates of Obesity-Attributable Costs of Absenteeism.” Labor force data used in our calculation is for 2017 and comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For our index, we divided the estimated total cost of absenteeism by state by the labor force for that state.

The final component in our index is the number of workers receiving disability as a share of the population. This is a 24/7 Wall St. calculation based on 2016 disability recipiency rates and population figures published by the U.S. Social Security Administration. In our index, days of poor mental health and poor physical health each received half rank, and cost of sick days per worker and workers receiving disability as a share of the population each received full weight.

Not included in our index but considered for the story are the adult obesity rate, which is from County Health Rankings, and the adult smoking rate, which is from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. All figures listed are for the most recent available year.

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