Allergic rhinitis and the common cold – high cost to society


  • Edited by: Wytske Fokkens

J. Hellgren, MD, PhD, Department of ENT, Head and Neck Surgery, Capio Lundby Hospital, Wieselgrensplatsen 2A, SE-417 17 Göteborg, Sweden.
Tel.: +46 31 657 150
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To cite this article: Hellgren J, Cervin A, Nordling S, Bergman A, Cardell LO. Allergic rhinitis and the common cold – high cost to society. Allergy 2010; 65: 776–783.


Background:  The common cold and allergic rhinitis constitute a global health problem that affects social life, sleep, school and work performance and is likely to impose a substantial economic burden on society because of absence from work and reduced working capacity. This study assesses the loss of productivity as a result of both allergic rhinitis and the common cold in the Swedish working population.

Methods:  Four thousand questionnaires were sent to a randomized adult population, aged 18–65 years, in Sweden, stratified by gender and area of residence (metropolitan area vs rest of the country). The human capital approach was used to assign monetary value to lost productivity in terms of absenteeism (absence from work), presenteeism (reduced working capacity while at work) and caregiver absenteeism (absence from work to take care of a sick child).

Results:  Thousand two hundred and thirteen individuals responded, response rate 32%. The mean productivity loss was estimated at 5.1 days or € 653 per worker and year, yielding a total productivity loss in Sweden of € 2.7 billion a year. Of the total costs, absenteeism (44%) was the dominant factor, followed by presenteeism (37%) and caregiver absenteeism (19%). Poisson regression analyses revealed that women, people in the 18–29 year age group, and respondents with ‘doctor-diagnosed asthma’ reported more lost days than the rest of the group.

Conclusion:  In Sweden, the cost of rhinitis is € 2.7 billion a year in terms of lost productivity. A reduction in lost productivity of 1 day per individual and year would potentially save € 528 million.