32% of workers believe their workplace hinders ability to lead healthy lifestyle

RP news wires

Despite the vast majority (91 percent) of workers believing that it is their employer's responsibility to create a healthy working environment, nearly a third (32 percent) of employees feels their workplace actually hinders their ability to lead a healthy lifestyle, according to new independent research commissioned by the World Heart Federation and conducted by Opinion Health.

"The survey results suggest links between specific job sectors and the level of engagement in workplace-wellness initiatives, or steps taken towards a heart-healthy lifestyle" explains Dr. Kathryn Taubert, senior science officer, World Heart Federation. "As many of us spend over half of our waking hours at work, the workplace is the ideal setting to encourage behavior changes to minimize a person's risk of cardiovascular disease."

The results are launched today ahead of World Heart Day, the largest global awareness campaign on heart disease and stroke, initiated by the World Heart Federation. Every year, approximately 17.1 million lives are claimed by the global burden of cardiovascular disease, and yet, most heart disease and stroke is preventable. On World Heart Day (September 26, 2010) the World Heart Federation and World Economic Forum are encouraging employers and employees to promote a heart-healthy workplace by adopting workplace-wellness programs. Such programs encourage employees to modify their behavior, by, for example, the promotion of physical activity via gym memberships or cycle to work schemes, or encouraging employees to stop smoking via the adoption of smoke-free workplaces or the provision of smoking-cessation programs.

"Apart from having a responsibility toward employees' health, employers stand to benefit from introducing workplace-wellness programs, as they have been shown to decrease absenteeism, while increasing productivity, retention, creativity and innovation" states Olivier Raynaud, senior director for global health and health industries at the World Economic Forum. "During the past decade many businesses have recognized the importance of employee health and have committed to include health promotion as a priority in their corporate agenda."

The survey compares responses from employees across five job sectors in India, Mexico, Poland and Portugal. The World Heart Federation's employee survey also revealed that of those questioned:

  • Eleven percent workers do not agree that their employer supports a healthy workplace, despite 63 percent rating support of healthy initiatives, and 80 percent rating health insurance, as important or very important when choosing an employer.
  • Significantly more people in the Agriculture/Manual Labor sector (such as farmers) work more than 50 hours per week. People in this sector were also more likely than other occupational sectors to state that they do not take steps to ensure a healthy lifestyle, and were more likely to take time off work due to sickness, with nearly a quarter (22 percent) having had 11 or more sick days in the past year. Professional Business employees (such as lawyers and accountants) were significantly more likely than other occupational sectors to state that their employer offers five or six workplace-wellness programs and initiatives (such as smoking-cessation programs or walk to work days).
  • People in the Government and Public Sector (e.g. healthcare professionals or educators) and Professional Business Sector (such as lawyers and accountants) were more likely than those in the Manufacturing/Engineering Sector (e.g. trade and distribution) to take four steps toward a heart-healthy lifestyle (for example, undertaking physical exercise at least three times a week, or not smoking).

"World Heart Day is a major international awareness day dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and control of heart disease and stroke," states Professor Pekka Puska, president, World Heart Federation. "We hope that this day motivates people to take preventative action within the workplace to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, and that people around the world will join us in both celebrating World Heart Day, and in the global fight against heart disease and stroke."

To celebrate the achievements made in the fight for cardiovascular health over the past decade, and to mark the 10-year anniversary of World Heart Day, the World Heart Federation has created a first of its kind report on cardiovascular disease. The report content was identified by an expert panel of representatives who by forming an editorial board brought together a wide variety of CVD expertise.

"The 'State of the Heart' report commemorates progress made in heart health over the past ten years, whilst identifying challenges for the decade ahead, and urging governments, healthcare professionals, employers and individuals to continue to take steps to reduce the burden of heart disease and stroke," added Puska.

For further information on World Heart Day, or to download the State of the Heart report, visit http://www.worldheartday.org.

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