But now a new study from Franklin, Tenn.-based Healthways suggests that focusing only on health status may be misplaced. The research, published in the new Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, suggests employers would get less absenteeism and less “presentism”—showing up but not performing well—if they also focused on the overall well-being of their employees, not just on their personal lifestyles and habits.
Yes, high blood pressure, recurring pain, unhealthy diet and inadequate exercise increased employee absenteeism and presentism, researchers from Healthways' Center for Health Research found after surveying over 19,000 employees at five major companies. But so did unstable emotional health, lousy supervisor relationships and not getting to use their strengths in doing their jobs. It turns out working in organizations that do not support the overall well-being of their employees is bad for their health.
Similar relationships have been found in hospital programs designed to reduce readmissions. Sometimes it is not adherence to the post-discharge medical plan that matters most, but the home and social environment where the discharged patient lands. Bottom line: When it comes to promoting health, social conditions matter.
Follow Merrill Goozner on Twitter: @MHgoozner