Total Economic Impact

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Lead Author(s): 

Edward H. Yelin, PhD
Miriam Cisternas, MA

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I. Watkins-Castillo, PhD

The total economic impact of musculoskeletal diseases includes two factors: the cost to treat these diseases, or direct costs, and lost wages incurred, or indirect costs, that are attributed to the conditions.

Direct Costs Attributed to Musculoskeletal Diseases

The mean direct all-cause cost per year per individual patient with a musculoskeletal disease has increased about 63% between the years 1996-1998 and 2012-2014 in 2014 dollars, rising from just over $5,000 to about $8,000 per person in this time frame. Incremental costs, those costs most likely attributable to a musculoskeletal disease, rose slightly from $1,330 to $1,510. (Reference Columns C and E, Table 8.6.1 PDF CSV)

At the same time, with the increasing number of individuals with musculoskeletal diseases in a growing and aging population, aggregate total direct all-cause expenditures to treat persons with a musculoskeletal disease between the  years 1996-1998 and 2012-2014 increased by about 130%. For the years 2012-2014, the annual aggregate all-cause direct costs, in 2014 dollars, is estimated to be $882.5 billion. Aggregate incremental medical cost is estimated to be $162.4 billion in 2012-2014, an increase of about 60% from the earlier time period. (Reference Columns D and F, Table 8.6.1 PDF CSV)

Indirect Costs Attributed to Musculoskeletal Diseases

All-cause indirect costs, as the difference in wages for persons age 18 to 64 years with a work history who do and do not have musculoskeletal conditions, add another $97.5 billion to the aggregate cost for all persons with a musculoskeletal disease. Incremental indirect costs attributable to musculoskeletal disease alone are estimated to amount to $159.2 billion. This difference indicates that wage losses attributable to musculoskeletal conditions are greater than the mean difference in wages between the two groups, an indication that persons with musculoskeletal conditions work less than expected of persons their ages. Both estimated aggregate all-cause indirect cost and aggregate incremental indirect costs increased by more than 200% from 1996-1998 to 2012-2014. (Reference Table 8.12 PDF CSV)

Total Costs Attributed to Musculoskeletal Diseases

Total costs to society associated with persons with a musculoskeletal disease, including other comorbid conditions, which includes the total aggregate cost of treating these individuals plus the cost to society in the form of decreased or lost wages (indirect cost), was estimated to be $980.1 billion per year in 2012-2014. (Reference Table 8.14 PDF CSV)

Share of GDP

Between the years 1996-1998 and 2012-2014, the GDP1, in constant 2014 dollars, has risen from $12.0 trillion to $17.0 trillion, an increase of 42%. Over the same two time frames, total direct and indirect costs of musculoskeletal conditions rose from $411.9 billion to $980.1 billion. This is an increase of 138%, or more than three times the rate of increase as the GDP.
As a share of GDP, using the same 2014 dollars base, total direct and indirect costs for musculoskeletal conditions increased by 68%, from 3.44% to 5.76%. Indirect costs rose twice as fast as direct costs in relative terms. However, indirect cost are a much smaller share of total cost than direct costs, constituting 0.25% of GDP in 1996-1998 and 0.57% in 2012-2014. Direct costs rose from a 3.18% share to a 5.19% share over the same time period. (Reference Table 8.14 PDF CSV)


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