Impact of last year's flu season went beyond health, Walgreens survey finds

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Last year's flu season resulted in 100 million lost work days, as well as $6.8 billion in lost wages, according to a new survey conducted by Walgreens.

In addition to the 100 million work days lost, Walgreens found that nearly 80% of those surveyed who got the flu last season said they at some point still went into work, while 60% were at least fairly concerned they would expose others to illness. What's more, one-third of respondents spent between $251 and $1,000 on treating the flu last season, when taking into account missed work days, all or parts of vacations, child care costs, doctor visits and other related costs.

The survey, which examined the effects of influenza on people’s everyday lives and the economy, is the first of a two-part Walgreens Flu Impact Report series.

Other report projections included:

  • Nearly two-thirds of total missed work days would have been employer-paid, resulting in a cost of more than $10 billion to companies’ bottom lines due to lost productivity;

  • Nearly 2 million business trips also were cancelled last season, based on survey projections; and

  • About 32 million school days were missed due to flu last season, more than one-third of respondents with children said they needed to make alternative childcare arrangements when their children are sick, while 40% needed to take time off from work to care for a sick child.

“When it comes to the flu and your own personal calendar, there’s no planning for the many things it could impact,” Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness Kermit Crawford said. “Immunization rates have climbed and last season more than 40% of the U.S. population received flu shots. This report helps to reinforce the importance of getting a flu shot and how that small step toward protection can provide peace of mind when it comes to other important aspects of our lives.”

The Walgreens survey was conducted from Sept. 1-8, to a Vision Critical Springboard America panel to a nationally representative sample of 1,200 Americans ages 18 years and older.