Although employees want to improve their health, many are finding that the demands of work, personal life, and overall stress levels are making it difficult for them to achieve their health improvement goals, according to a new survey of more than 1,500 U.S. workers released today by the National Business Group on Health, a non-profit association of 300 large U.S. companies.
In its survey, the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) found that a vast majority of employees (88 percent) have taken steps to improve their health within the past year or have been regularly doing so for more than a year. However, nearly half of those surveyed (47 percent) say work demands are preventing them from leading a healthier life.
“U.S. employers should be encouraged to see that a large portion of workers want to improve their health and are getting involved in various health promotion programs,” said Helen Darling, President of the National Business Group on Health. “In fact, while some employees are taking action to improve their health for the first time this, many more have actually been involved in health related activities for more than one year.”
Health Related Activity Doing Regularly Started within For Over One Year Past Year —————– ————— Had health-related screening/exam 55% 23% Went for physical exam 54% 21% Tried to improve health through exercise, better nutrition 53% 35% Researched health condition 46% 28% Researched specific doctor 33% 24% Completed online health assessment 26% 22%
The survey reported that one out of four workers said they are more stressed today than they were two years ago. The three top stress factors cited are work and finances, both cited by 54 percent of respondents, and work/life balance cited by 43 percent. A third of respondents indicated they would take advantage of stress management programs if offered at work.
“Growing levels of stress among workers is clearly an issue employers will have to address, especially as employees becoming increasingly concerned about the current economic crisis. Employers will need to consider new programs and better utilize existing programs such as stress management courses, support groups, and referrals to mental health professionals to help employees reduce stress,” said Ms. Darling.
About three-fourths of respondents (74 percent) also stated that they are trying to adopt healthier lifestyles today with the hope their health care costs will be more manageable in the future while slightly more than one half (54 percent) are saving money to cover health care costs in the future.
“Employees are clearly faced with numerous hurdles to achieving their health goals,” said Ms. Darling. “Yet, with the ever rising cost of health care, they appear undaunted in their resolve to improve their health as a means of reducing future health costs.”
The Role of Employer Communications
The survey found that workers benefit from their employers’ health plan communication efforts. Half of all respondents say the health care benefit communications they receive from either their employer or health plan are very valuable or extremely valuable. More than four out of ten (43 percent) said they took action to improve their overall health based on these communications.
“Our survey amply demonstrates that employer health plan offerings and communications catalyze employee health improvement efforts,” stated Ms. Darling. “Employers can strengthen their impact on employee health efforts to reduce costs by identifying and addressing the real or perceived barriers to utilization of wellness and health improvement services, and continuing to drive the conversation about the importance of using health services effectively.”
About the Survey
The National Business Group on Health commissioned researchers at Fidelity Consulting Group to survey employees of large U.S. employers. A total of 1,502 employees participated in the study, which was conducted in July 2008. To participate, workers had to be full- or part-time employees working for an employer with a minimum of 2,000 employees, between the ages of 22 and 69, and insured through an employer-sponsored or union-sponsored health plan.
About the National Business Group on Health
The National Business Group on Health is the nation’s only non-profit, membership organization of large employers devoted exclusively to finding innovative and forward-thinking solutions to their most important health care and related benefits issues. The Business Group identifies and shares best practices in health benefits, disability, health and productivity, related paid time off and work/life balance issues. Business Group members provide health coverage for more than 50 million U.S. workers, retirees and their families. For more information about the Business Group, visit www.businessgrouphealth.org.