Mayo Clinic Study Suggests Employers Offer Tai Chi in Wellness Programs
September 26, 2011 -
One simple question
asking employees to rate their current stress level may help identify
individuals who could benefit from wellness programs to reduce stress and
improve resiliency and overall health, according to a Mayo Clinic study
published in the September/October issue
of The American Journal of Health Promotion. The implications of the study,
one of the largest of its kind, are significant for businesses and other
organizations that offer wellness programs for employees or members.
Many organizations offer wellness programs for
employees or members. The programs can cut health care costs and boost
productivity. However, many people drop out or decline to enroll. "Wellness
programs and centers typically initially focus on physical fitness and weight
loss," Dr. Clark says. "Perhaps by addressing other domains of wellness --
stress management, work-life balance, spirituality and resilience -- employees
might gain the confidence and skills to truly achieve better overall wellness."
Mayo Clinic researchers surveyed 13,198
employees who joined a Mayo Clinic employee wellness center when it opened in
2008. Employees rated their stress levels on a scale of 0 (as bad as it can be)
to 10 (as good as it can be) and answered questions about quality of life,
fatigue, exercise, diet, smoking and health problems.
High stress levels (0 to 3) were reported by
2,147 employees. When compared to other employees, high-stress employees
reported a lower quality of life, poorer health, less support, and more fatigue.
They also were more likely to have high blood pressure, high blood sugar and
high cholesterol, and to be overweight. The high-stress group had less
confidence than their non-stressed peers in their ability to make changes to
improve their overall health.
The study showed the biggest differences
between stressed and non-stressed respondents were in fatigue levels after a
regular night's sleep and in current quality of life. So, instead of expecting
tired, stressed participants to run off pounds on the treadmill, Dr. Clark
suggests organizations could offer them yoga, tai chi, meditation, stress
management classes or sessions with a personal wellness coach that would help
them reach overall wellness goals.
"Surveys have shown that stress is a common
workplace problem," says Dr. Clark. "Our research acknowledges that stress
affects many aspects of health, and it's possible to easily identify who might
benefit from resiliency training."
The study was co-authored by Beth Warren, Philip Hagen, M.D., Bruce Johnson, Ph.D,
Sarah Jenkins, M.S., Brooke Werneburg, M.S., and Kerry Olsen, M.D.