Monday, December 10, 2007

Your job may be hazardous to your health

Workplace wellness factors ...

People who work in corporates are, on average, more at risk of developing health problems than the population as a whole, according to a study of employees from 18 different South African companies.

This is because people who work in corporates smoke more and are less physically active than the general population, Dr Tracy Kolbe-Alexander says.

The Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit (ESSM) conducted research among employees who participated in wellness days held at 18 companies.

Kolbe-Alexander says the study found there is a higher prevalence of overweight men in corporates than in the general population.

Smoking, inactivity and being overweight are three factors that increase the likelihood that you will experience health problems.

More than 50 percent of the corporate employees who participated in the ESSM's study had all three of these risk factors, and more, Kolbe-Alexander says.

The data collected from the employees included measuring their body mass index, their height and their weight, screening their cholesterol and taking their blood pressure. Employees were also asked questions about their age, gender, smoking habits, fruit and vegetable intake, and the extent to which they engaged in regular physical activity.

As a result of the prevalence of smoking, being overweight and not doing physical activity, the risk-related age of the corporate employees surveyed was significantly higher than their chronological, or actual, age, Kolbe-Alexander says.

The average age of the employees who participated in the study was 35, but their average risk-related age was 39 years.

Your risk-related age provides an indication of your health status, and is calculated using an algorithm that takes into account your chronological age, your height, your weight, your smoking habits, your fruit and vegetable intake, and the amount of physical activity you do each week.

Kolbe-Alexander says the higher average risk-related age among the corporate employees who participated in the research indicates that these employees are setting themselves up for the early onset of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

At the wellness days, the employees were also asked to record how often problems with their physical and mental health resulted in them being away from work. The answers showed that there is a significant link between employees' absenteeism and their risk-related age, Kolbe-Alexander says. In addition, she says, the employees' responses demonstrated that their health affected their productivity."    (Continued via Personal Finance)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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