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Survey: Workers Lack Accountability for Own Health
 

By Kathy Gurchiek  2/4/2008
 

They know they should eat right, but less than half are highly motivated to do so.

They know they should exercise, but only about one-fourth are highly motivated to get in a workout.

A lack of time (42 percent) and feeling tired or stressed (40 percent) are the top two reasons people don’t exercise, according to a survey that found workers want some outside help with getting healthy.

The survey was conducted in November and December 2007 with more than 1,000 client companies of ComPsych. ComPsych is a provider of employee assistance programs.

Almost 88 percent of those surveyed are interested in an employer wellness program, and two-thirds (67 percent) would probably use such a program. About as many (68 percent) said access to a personal coach or trainer would be the biggest motivator to improving their health and lifestyle

Earning days off (55 percent), reducing their health premiums (53 percent), being challenged to reach a goal or win a contest (51 percent), and receiving gym discounts (49 percent) also would motivate them, they said.

More than 74 percent said health and lifestyle significantly impacts productivity, mostly because of lower energy levels and reduced concentration (46 percent and 39 percent, respectively).

“Employees recognize the need for healthier habits and many have made New Year’s resolutions to make changes,” ComPsych Chairman and CEO Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz noted in a press release.

“But we are still seeing a general lack of accountability for achieving personal health. Workers are seeking outside motivation,” such as access to personal trainers and a healthier workplace, “for health improvement,” he said.

Slightly less than half (42 percent) consider themselves highly motivated to eat healthily, and more than one-third blame poor eating habits on a lack of time (34 percent). In addition, they blamed food cravings (27 percent), feeling down (18 percent), stress at work (11 percent) and stress at home (10 percent) for bad eating habits.

When it comes to working out, though, looking marvelous seems more important as a motivator than feeling marvelous. Among those who exercise, almost 45 percent say it’s because they want to improve or maintain their appearance.

Other reasons were: improving their energy level (20 percent), reducing stress (17 percent), reducing the likelihood of health problems (15 percent) and medical recommendations (3.5 percent).

The findings provide valuable insight, Chaifetz said, in what employees need to reach their health goals and what will work in wellness programs.

“For lasting health improvement, wellness programs must coach and inspire workers to take responsibility for their lifestyle choices and give them the tools to self-manage their health.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at kgurchiek@shrm.org.

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