Uncomfortable car seats are causing more than a third of UK drivers to take at least one day off work every year for back pain, costing the country more than £8.8 billion (Rs 76,956 crore) a year in lost productivity, according to exclusive research by Volvo Car UK.
Of the 32.4 million people employed in the UK, 68% use their car to drive to work or for work purposes. Of these drivers, the survey by Volvo Car UK found that 12% have taken up to two days off work for back pain from poor quality car seats, while 13% have had to ask up to four days of sick leave from their employer.
A worrying 5% have had to have a full working week off, while another 5% have asked for seven or more days of rest, meaning more than 2.2 million motorists have missed over a week of work. In total, back pain resulting from poor car seats costs the UK economy £8.8 billion in lost productivity.
According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the average hourly economic output per hour in the UK in July 2019 stood at £35.71 (Rs 3,122) per worker. With 68% of the 32.4 million workforce driving to work, there are 22,032,000 motorists on the road every day who use their car for commuting or work purposes. With 11.92% of these drivers taking up to two days a year off sick for back pain from poor car seats, 12.98% up to four days, 5.29% up to six days and 4.71% taking seven or more days off work, the total cost from back pain from poor car seats to the UK economy is £8,841,324,724.
The pain from poor car seats is bad enough for nearly a third of drivers to see a doctor or physiotherapist, costing the NHS £191.94 million (Rs 1,678 crore) in GP appointments and hospital visits**. Volvo Car UK’s findings have been revealed during Backcare Awareness Week, starting 7 October.
Men are more likely to find the seats in their car uncomfortable, with 15% of male drivers saying their car seats often cause them back pain when driving for work purposes. Half the men surveyed admitted to taking at least one day off work for back pain from driving, while only 25% of women had to call their employer for sick leave.
Men were also more likely to see a doctor for back pain, with 40% doing so, while just one in five women found the seats in their car so bad they had to go to a GP or physiotherapist. However, the research found men drive on average more than women, with men covering on average 60 miles a day, while women drive just 30.
Kristian Elvefors, Volvo Car UK’s Managing Director, said: “Back pain from poor-quality car seats is a bigger problem than many think. Not only is it costing the UK economy billions in lost productivity as employees take sick leave, but poor-quality car seats are also placing an unnecessary burden on the NHS, costing hospitals and GP surgeries hundreds of millions a year. Volvo is committed to ensuring that all of its customers, regardless of shape or size, find the seats in their car incredibly comfortable and pain-free.”
Volvo’s three-tier approach to seat comfort
Volvo says it was one of the first car makers to incorporate spinal research into its seat design, starting with the Volvo Amazon in 1965. Today, Volvo has a three-tier approach to seat comfort, focusing on Initial Comfort, Cruising Comfort and Dynamic Comfort – to ensure drivers and passengers remain relaxed and fully supported throughout their journey, regardless of the length or type of road.
Tommy Apell, Senior Attribute Leader for Seat Comfort at Volvo Cars, said: “At Volvo, we specifically opt to use softer foam compounds for our seats to ensure the fit is comfortable across all body shapes and sizes. We also specially tune our seat springs for improved comfort, with the ergonomics team working alongside designers to ensure things like seat stitching don’t create pressure points for drivers and passengers. Our lengthy development and testing programme means new seats take up to five years to move from concept to finished product.”
According to Volvo Car UK, seat comfort is a key priority for 63% of UK drivers, with nearly one in five going as far as swapping a previous car for a model with better seats. More than one in 10 drivers also admitted they had passengers refuse to get in their car because their seats were so uncomfortable. When asked which areas they would like to see improved, the majority of drivers wanted more lumbar (lower back) support, while a third wanted more adjustability to suit their frames.
The findings were revealed during the UK’s Backcare Awareness Week. Back pain has been found to affect up to 80% of the population, with musculoskeletal disorders one of the leading causes of sickness absences in the workplace.