NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Determining the Cost of Tears

November 20, 2002

Researchers at the Grief Recovery Institute recently set out to measure how much personal grief cost U.S. businesses in lost productivity, and increased errors and accidents.

  • The institute estimates that American workers suffer emotional pain ranging from miscarriages to loss of pets -- and that costs U.S. companies more than $75 billion a year.
  • The death of a loved one contributes $37.6 billion to that total -- but grief comes in other forms as well.
  • Death of an acquaintance extracts a price of $7 billion.
  • Divorce and marital woes account for $11 billion of the sum; family crisis, $9 billion; money trouble at home, $4.6 billion; and loss of a pet, $2.4 billion.

While the institute's index is subjective and far from exact, industry groups representing funeral directors, hospice families and others that monitor and study grief say they have no comparable statistics.

The Society for Human Resource Management says companies are taking steps to deal with grief among employees. In a recent society survey, 68 percent of companies said they had employee-assistance programs -- up from 64 percent in 1999. About 92 percent of companies offer paid bereavement leave -- usually for four days or fewer.

Source: Jeffrey Zaslow, "Putting a Price Tag on Grief," Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2002.


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