Strong job market linked to higher flu rates

Higher employment rates correlate with increased physician visits for the flu, according to a study published April 24 in Economics & Human Biology and reported July 9 by Ball State University.

The study examined state-level data from the CDC on flu prevalence. An employment rate increase of 1 percentage point correlated with increased influenza-related physician visits by about 16 percent. The effects were especially strong in the retail and healthcare sectors, which have high levels of interpersonal contact.

Work-related activities, such as using public transportation and working in offices, could be spreading the flu more easily, said Erik Nesson, PhD, an economics professor at Ball State's Miller College of Business. He suggested firms provide more generous sick day policies to accommodate the flu season and encourage sick workers to stay at home. 

The public health community could also use the information to prepare for potentially large flu outbreaks if the economy is doing well, Dr. Nesson said.

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