Grim News on Wellness

ComPsych‘s Aug. 15 report says emotional baggage is weighing workers down, to the extent that they may not be able to achieve healthy lifestyle changes.

How well do these statistics describe you?

  • A physical health problem or emotional problem has interfered with my normal activities with friends, family, neighbors, or groups.
  • I'm unable to stop thinking about my problems.
  • I'm tense or anxious much of the time.
  • I never exercise.
  • I'm not getting enough sleep.

These descriptions come from a "snapshot of employee physical/emotional health" and lifestyle habits, a five-page report published Aug. 15 by ComPsych Corporation, which claims to be the world's largest provider of employee assistance programs, serving some 35 million people at more than 13,000 organizations. The report aggregates data from customers' health risk assessments, and the sum total leads ComPsych to conclude that many employees' emotional health "likely will not support healthy lifestyle changes." Stress, anxiety, depression, and poor social support may be hampering employees' efforts to achieve wellness goals, the company says.

Free registration on the ComPsych website is required to download the report, which says data from employees of all ages, occupations, regions, and industries were included.

"There is strong correlation between high stress/emotional issues and poor lifestyle choices," said Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, chairman and CEO of ComPsych. "For example, smoking and overeating may be a means to self-medicate undiagnosed depression. To be effective, corporate wellness programs must focus on emotional as well as physical factors of the employee and include a counseling component to address underlying issues.”

Key findings in the report include these:

  • 40 percent said an emotional or physical health problem has interfered with normal activities with family, friends, neighbors or groups.
  • 36 percent say they are tense or anxious much of the time.
  • 43 percent did not receive good support from friends and family in the past six months.
  • 21 percent said they have felt down, depressed, or hopeless in the past month.
  • 15 percent of employees get zero exercise; another 31 percent only exercise one or two days per week.
  • 34 percent of employees consume one or less fruits and vegetables each day.
  • 23 percent admit to binge drinking within the past six months.
  • Only 16 percent said they always get seven or eight hours of sleep per night; 27 percent said they get that much less than half the time, and 14 percent said they seldom or never do.

ComPsych said its HealthyGuidance® programs target employee behavior and lifestyle issues before they become significant illnesses. The "Build-to-Suit" program includes health risk assessments and screenings; wellness coaching with behavioral, health, and nutrition experts; online health management tools; wellness seminars/corporate challenges; and targeted programs such as tobacco cessation and weight management.

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