Young employees workplace wellness

Addressing Myths of Young, Older Employees and Workplace Wellness

Yesterday we highlighted the gap in understanding around the ways that  workplace wellness programs can benefit young as well as older employees.

We noted a Workplace Insight report titled “Staff aged 35 and under have lower levels of health and wellbeing than older workers.” It states: “Employees aged 35 and under lose the highest average amount of productive time due to absenteeism and presenteeism, are the least physically active in the workforce, have a high proportion of smokers and eat the least fruit and vegetables each day.”

To help businesses understand this reality, Interactive Health recently released a report titled “Worksite Wellness Programs Benefit Young Adult Workers, Not Just Older Employees.”

The report notes that “A common misconception is that companies employing a large proportion of young adults don’t need to establish comprehensive wellness programs because their workforces are already healthy. But adults under 35—and the businesses that employ them—greatly benefit from comprehensive worksite programs designed to maintain and improve employees’ health. That’s important because adults younger than 35 account for more than a quarter of the nation’s workforce. And despite their relatively young age, they face significant health risks. Getting and keeping these younger workers healthy is key to their long-term well-being. Businesses that recruit and hire them benefit as well, in terms of worker productivity and lower medical costs.”

The report highlights “three commonly-held misperceptions about the value of comprehensive employee wellness programs for young adult workers.” These include:

Myth #1: Young adults are healthier than their older colleagues and don’t need wellness programs.

“FACT: You would expect that young adults would face fewer health threats due to their age, but that’s not always the case. Our 2015 member data indicate that workers under 35 are more likely to struggle with mental health issues, such as stress, depression and anxiety. They also face significant risks for conditions such as diabetes and severe anemia. Interactive Health focuses on early detection for specific health risks through targeted outreach—in the case of physical conditions, for pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and high cholesterol.”

In addition: “Data collected from the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS), an assessment tool incorporated into the health evaluations offered by Interactive Health, reveal that young adults face a signi cantly higher risk of emotional health issues than their older counterparts. Assessing and addressing mental health needs is central to an effective worksite wellness program because mental health issues impact physical health, work productivity and overall well-being. For that reason, comprehensive wellness programs that address both physical and emotional health risks are essential.”

Myth #2: Programs offering comprehensive or annual screenings are of little or no value to workers under 35.

“FACT: Annual screenings that evaluate lab values beyond lipids, glucose, weight and blood pressure can be invaluable for employees of all ages.” Among their findings:

  • “16% of young adults learned of a condition or risk factor they had been unaware of”
  • “1,100 young adult cases identified as requiring immediate medical follow-up”
  • “505 of those would have only been discovered through comprehensive screenings”

Myth #3: The financial impact of chronic health conditions on an employer’s workforce can be minimized by hiring young adults.

“FACT: Given the health risks faced by employees under 35, it is clear that hiring a younger workforce will not, in itself, eliminate the impact of chronic diseases on workforce health and overall healthcare costs. As our data have shown, young adults are at risk for a number of trending health issues, as well as those that call for immediate follow-up or intervention.”

The report’s conclusion: “Comprehensive worksite wellness programs that focus on the prevention and management of a broad spectrum of physical and emotional conditions benefit workers of all ages, including young adults. Through these programs, employees can be alerted to their mental and physical health risks and learn positive behaviors that can result in a lifetime of good health.”

The full report can be found here.