High Stress Associated with Negative Health Behavior: Study

We’ve reported previously on the negative effects stress can have on personal health:

  • “Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades.” See piece here.
  • The  American Diabetes Association states: “Many long-term sources of stress are mental. Your mind sometimes reacts to a harmless event as if it were a real threat. Like physical stress, mental stress can be short term: from taking a test to getting stuck in a traffic jam. It can also be long term: from working for a demanding boss to taking care of an aging parent.” See piece here.
  • And in the UK: “stress and sedentary working remain the UK’s greatest productivity drains.” See piece here.

Now a new study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine finds that “High stress is associated with negative health behavior.”

Indeed, one finding: People who reported higher stress levels used the wellness center facilities less than those who didn’t report higher stress levels. In other words, these respondents took less advantage of a key opportunity to help counteract the negative effects of stress.

The study, titled “High Stress and Negative Health Behaviors: A Five-Year Wellness Center Member Cohort Study,” examined “the association between having a high stress level and health behaviors in employees of an academic medical center.”

According to HealthLeaders Media: “Researchers measured stress and health behaviors (exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc.) by examining the results of series of five annual surveys administered to employees at Mayo Clinic who had access to a wellness center. The annual survey was completed by 676 worksite wellness members between 2009 and 2013.”

“The research showed a significant relationship between the stress levels of an employee and four quality of life domains:”

  • Poor physical health
  • Low mental health
  • Poor nutritional habits
  • Lower perceived overall health

The study states: “The worksite wellness center facility provides wellness programs, education, and research for employees, volunteers, and retirees of an academic medical center… All programs are delivered by a team of certified health and wellness specialists, wellness coaches, and group fitness instructors who are focused on positive support and sustainable behavior change.”

HealthLeaders Media reports: “Employees who reported the high stress levels and perceived poor quality of life also reported the lowest usage of wellness programs.”

Said Matthew Clark, PhD, lead author of the study and resiliency expert at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program: “It’s important to teach individuals to monitor their stress levels over time and practice effective, ongoing stress-reduction strategies.”

As the study concludes: “Clearly, stress is an important issue, and effective strategies need to be tailored for high stress health care center employees, as they appear to be less likely to use a wellness center, have negative health behaviors, and have poor perceived health.”