Health-Related Absenteeism Costs Companies HK$3.74 Million Worth of Productivity

By AIA | Wednesday, 18 Dec 2019

An average of 77.3 days of productivity is lost due to health-related absenteeism and presenteeism per employee every year in Hong Kong, 10 days more than the survey average of 67.1 days, and the highest among five markets surveyed in Asia Pacific. The average monthly cost per organisation is estimated at HK$3.74 million, a significant 25% increase year-on-year. These are some of the findings of the 2019 “Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality” survey conducted by AIA Hong Kong.

“In a challenging business environment, sustaining and enhancing competitiveness is a key concern of employers. This survey reveals that Hong Kong has been the most seriously affected market in terms of productivity loss due to health-related absenteeism and presenteeism for two consecutive years. The 2019 findings reveal the situation has deteriorated drastically with the average monthly cost per organisation surging 25% to HK$3.74 million. In addition, the mental health condition of Hong Kong employees is a growing cause for concern. More than 10% (12.2%) of the respondents admitted that they have moderate or severe symptoms of depression, almost 70% higher than the Asia Pacific average, indicating the urgency and importance of addressing employees’ health and wellbeing needs”, said Ms Elaine Lau, Chief Corporate Solutions Officer of AIA Hong Kong & Macau.

Survey findings

Productivity loss resulting from employee sickness 

According to the survey findings in Hong Kong, 15.0% of surveyed employees had missed work time due to health problems in the week prior to the survey. The survey results show that the loss of productivity due to health-related absenteeism and presenteeism accounts for almost 30% (29.6%) of an employee’s working hours on average, which is equivalent to a loss of 77.3 working days per employee every year, the worst among five markets in Asia Pacific and significantly higher than the Asia Pacific average of 67.1 days. The survey estimates that the loss per organisation per month amounts to HK$3.74 million on average, a significant 25% increase year-on-year.

Unhealthy living habits endanger employees’ physical health 

Healthy living habits are essential to maintaining physical health. However, the survey shows that Hong Kong employees are unable to practice a healthy lifestyle, and imbalanced nutrition is their highest health risk. Around 80% (78.3%) of the respondents claimed they do not have a balanced diet, with insufficient consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Physical inactivity and sleep deprivation are also common phenomena among the working population.  Around 60% (58.6%) of interviewed employees said they have less than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.  In addition, one out of two (47.5%) employees reported getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, higher than last year’s 44.7%. 18.0% of respondents indicated they had poor or very poor sleep quality.

Meanwhile, there are also signs of deterioration in Hong Kong employees’ clinical health. The percentage of obese employees has increased from last year’s 21.4% to 23.3%, almost 80% higher than the Asia Pacific average of 13.3%. More than 80% (85.0%) of respondents reported one or more symptoms of musculoskeletal conditions, while nearly 10% (9.0%) revealed that pain or discomfort resulting from musculoskeletal disorders has prevented them from going to work. In addition, over 20% (22.0%) of respondents reported one or more chronic conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart diseases, indicating a worrying trend.

Mental health hampers work productivity  

The combination of a hectic lifestyle and work-related stress is taking a toll on the mental health of Hong Kong people and consequently affects work efficiency. The survey found that 57.0% of employees interviewed face at least one dimension of work-related stress. 12.2% of the respondents admitted that they have moderate or severe symptoms of depression, nearly 70% higher than the Asia Pacific average of 7.2%. Moreover, 16.3% of respondents mentioned that they have financial concerns, a slight increase from last year’s 12.7%. Close to 30% (28.7%) of surveyed employees score low or very low in level of work engagement. These findings indicate negative impacts on work efficiency, as well as business productivity and competitiveness.

Research and analysis for the “Healthiest Workplace by AIA Vitality” is conducted by AIA’s Academic partners RAND Europe and academic institutions across various geographical regions. Now in its third year, the survey covers employees from a wide range of organisations and industries across five markets in Asia Pacific including Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The survey is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of employees’ health and wellbeing, which in turn helps employers formulate useful strategies to support employees practicing healthy living and improve overall company productivity. From May to July 2019, a total of 1,169 employees from 38 organisations in Hong Kong participated in the survey.



AIA Group Limited established its operations in Hong Kong in 1931. To date, the group is serving over 3 million customers, offering them services and products ranging from individual life, group life, accident, medical and health, mandatory provident fund, personal lines insurance to investment-linked products with numerous investment options. 

Healthiest Workplace AIA Vitality Productivity Lost Absenteeism Presenteeism health and wellbeing imbalanced nutrition insufficient physical activity work-related stress symptom symptoms of depression work engagement level