Research

Periods cause women nine days of lost productivity a year

28 Sep 2019 By PM Editorial

One in seven have taken time off work because of menstruation-related symptoms, study finds

Working through period-related symptoms like pain or heavy bleeding causes nine days of lost productivity for women annually, a new study has revealed.

The research, published online in the journal BMJ Open, found the real impact of menstruation-related symptoms is widely underestimated, as nearly all participants in the study reported feeling less productive or having to take time off work while having their period.

Researchers from the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands surveyed 32,748 Dutch women between the ages of 15 and 45 to evaluate productivity loss associated with period-related symptoms, which was measured as both time off from work or working while feeling ill.

Nearly one in seven women (14 per cent) said they had taken time off work during their period, with 3.4 per cent saying they had to take time off nearly every menstrual cycle. This translated to 1.3 days per year lost because of absenteeism related to a woman’s period. 

Four in five (81 per cent) women admitted to working while ill – also known as presenteeism – during their period and reported decreased productivity as a result.

The researchers theorise that women’s average productivity loss (33 per cent) owing to period-related presenteeism results in nine days of total productivity loss per year. 

The findings also suggest there is a taboo for women openly discussing menstrual symptoms at work, as only a fifth (20 per cent) of respondents told their employer that their absence from work was down to menstrual complaints. 

“Taking all symptoms into account, it seems likely that the real impact is underestimated in the general population,” say the researchers. “Despite being almost two decades into the 21st century, discussions about [periods] may still be rather taboo.”

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