New findings demonstrate unhealthy individual lifestyle choices may result in substantially higher levels of lost productive work time, according to a new study published in the October issue of Population Health Management. The study, conducted with cross-sectional survey data from 19,803 employees working at three large, geographically dispersed companies, concluded that even one unhealthy behavior increases the likelihood of lost productivity. Employees with an unhealthy diet were 66 percent more likely to report having experienced a loss in productivity than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Employees who exercised only occasionally were 50 percent more likely to report having lower levels of productivity than employees who were regular exercisers. Smokers were 28 percent more likely to report suffering from a drop in productivity than non-smokers.
Researchers from Brigham Young University, the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and the Center for Health Research at Healthways analyzed the topic of “presenteeism” - being present at work, but not performing optimally - by demographic variables, healthy behaviors, physical health limitations and workplace conditions. Information was collected from participating individuals with Healthways’ Well-Being Assessment, the individual-level instrument designed to complement and correlate with the national and regional well-being data collected through the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
“Total health-related employee productivity loss accounts for 77 percent of all such loss and costs employers two to three times more than annual healthcare expenses,” said lead author Ray Merrill, a Professor in the Department of Health Science, Brigham Young University. “This study, which analyzes an unusually large and geographically dispersed population, represents a more comprehensive understanding of the multitude of factors that drive presenteeism, thereby improving employers’ ability to meaningfully address this issue.”
Findings related to physical health and healthy behaviors also revealed that employees who had difficulty exercising during the day were 96 percent more likely to have increased productivity loss. Those employees who rarely eat fruits, vegetables and other low-fat foods at work were 93 percent more likely to have a higher loss in productivity. In addition, those who did not believe their workplace environment would support them in becoming physically and emotionally healthier were more likely to have a drop in productivity levels.
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