Study shows flu virus impact varies by occupations and industries
Researchers found significant differences in flu incidence across different occupations and industries within employed individuals and assessed human contact interaction as a potential mechanism for contagion.
"Contagion at Work: Occupations, Industries and Human Contact"—research recently accepted by the Journal of Public Economics by authors Dongya "Don" Koh, an assistant professor of economics at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Anna Houstecka, a research associate in labor economics at the Institute for Employment Research in Nuremberg, Germany, and Raul Santaeulalia-Llopis, a Beatriz Galindo senior research professor in economics at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, and a Barcelona Graduate School of Economics affiliated professor—finds a higher incidence of the spread of flu in employed persons.
Using nationally representative micro panel data on flu incidence from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey in the United States, the researchers show that employed individuals are on average 35.3% more likely to be infected with the flu virus. The results of the study remain valid even after controlling the differences across individuals such as vaccinations, health insurance and observable and unobservable individual characteristics.
Within the employed, the report finds significant differences in flu incidence by occupation and industry.
"It is critical to note that education, health and social services show 52.2% higher probability of infection than mining," Koh said. "This result is alarming to the people working in education sectors, like me, during the COVID-19."
The study further shows a potential mechanism for the occupation-industry specific differences in flu incidence. To compare flu incidence by the extent of human contact interaction at work, researchers created an occupation-industry-specific human contact measure based on O'NET occupational characteristics. The study found that occupations and industries with more human contact interaction at work are subject to larger contagion risk.
"The higher the human contact at work, the greater are the odds of infection. This informs us that lowering the human contact on campus is one of the most effective ways to curb thespread of the virus in the university," Koh said.