Poor car seats are causing more than a third of UK drivers to take one day off work a year for back pain, costing more than £8.8 billion annually in lost productivity.
The findings, from exclusive research by Volvo Car UK, show that 12% of respondents 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.
Meanwhile, one in 20 (5%) have had to have a full working week off, while another 5% have asked for seven or more days of rest.
If this was reflected across the whole driving population, Volvo suggests that back pain resulting from poor car seats is costing the UK economy £8.8 billion in lost productivity.
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 in GP appointments and hospital visits, it says.
The findings have been revealed during Backcare Awareness Week.
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.”
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.
Volvo 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.