The Well-Being Journal

Women's Well-Being: Behind the Series

Jennifer Rudloff

Think you know the happiest woman in America? Well we do! Based on findings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, the Healthways Science Team identified distinct characteristics that contribute to high well-being for America’s largest demographic, Baby Boomer Women. In a four part series – USA Today found ‘the happiest woman in America’ and use her life as an example as they explore what well-being means in work, health, and relationships for this generation of boomers.

I wanted to take some time to dive in to the data behind the series and discuss it's implications and associated action steps for each topic:

If you missed the series in USA Today - be sure to check out the stories:

Meet the happiest woman in America
Learn about work from ‘the happiest woman’
Learn about health from ‘the happiest woman’
Learn about relationships from ‘the happiest woman’

ABC World News also featured this series during 3 nights of their broadcast. Be sure to check out their coverage on well-being and health.

Topics: Healthy Living ABC World News Relationships Well-Being In the News Happiest Woman in America Business Performance Health Well-Being Index Baby Boomers USA Today work life balance Gail Sheehy

Is Your Boss Making You Fat?

Jennifer Rudloff

Are you overweight or obese? How about the person sitting next to you? What about the other side? Chances are your answer to two out of three of these questions is “yes.” The reason is, two out of three (67%) Americans are overweight or obese. I don’t know how that makes you feel but it makes me disappointed for two reasons. 1.) I am a 35 year veteran of health promotion; some days stats like this make me feel like the cancer researcher who studied the disease for 35 years and retired never finding a cure. 2.) It’s something within people’s control, yet, we’ve failed to motivate individuals to control it. To me that’s a sad commentary on America, a country that made itself great by our work ethic, motivation, and fortitude.

Add obesity to chronic illness (many of the same behaviors that cause obesity also cause chronic illness) and things get worse for corporate America. 86% of America’s full-time workforce is overweight or has a chronic health condition. This causes an estimated 450 million lost work days each year resulting in a cost of more than $153 billion annually in lost productivity, according to findings released yesterday and included in EBN . To contrast, this is four times higher than our friends across the pond in the UK. If you include part time workers and other measures of presenteeism, the picture gets much worse. "Other research that has examined a broader array of factors using a somewhat different list of chronic conditions places the economic effect of lost productivity at $1.1 trillion per year," the study said.

It’s interesting to look at the evolution of knowledge over the years: In graduate school I was taught that weight was all about metabolism; balance the calories taken in with the calories burned and the problem of maintaining a healthy weight is solved. Later I learned it wasn’t that easy. Things like stress cause hormonal changes that influence our propensity to gain weight. OK, that made sense. However, recent findings from the Well-Being Index and Well-Being Assessment are a little more intriguing. We can show that the financial resources a person has available or the amount of recognition you get at work have as high a correlation to Body Mass Index, as does your eating and physical activity behaviors. So, perhaps a bad boss can make you fat, even if indirectly.

While we don’t yet understand exactly how this works, it it seems to go something like this. People who have emotional or social burdens, such as a frustrating work environment, lack of time to spend with their friends, care-giving responsibilities for a close relative, financial problems, or marital strife simply have less time, energy, interest, and propensity to follow the behaviors that result in a healthy weight. So, a less than supportive boss may not make you fat directly, but it is a factor in an employee’s ability, or lack of ability, to take good care of him or herself. So, an organization with a lot of bad bosses can experience significant negative impact from having an overweight or obese population that manifests itself in poor physical health, as well as the poor business performance of the organization.

We have implemented a number of strategies with our own people that appear to be producing results. Things like providing our colleagues the option of walking workstations, and having healthy food options in our cafe (and no fryers). We have workout Wednesdays where people can dress for fitness all day, and attend one of our many fitness classes at work. While some of these ideas may not be practical in your company, many things are. Humans make thousands of mini-decisions all day and helping people be mindful of how to make the healthy choice the easy choice can pay big dividends. For instance, if you can help your people be mindful of making the high calorie burn choice their action of choice, sustainable weight loss can be achieved. Using the stairs rather than the elevators and escalators 10 times a day burns 60 more calories. 60 more calories burned for every workday, minus vacation time, results in about 5 pounds of weight loss per year. To make it even easier for people, dress up the stairwells. Hang paintings, play music, and paint the walls bright colors – use your creativity.

Obesity is a huge issue in the US and I don’t want to trivialize what it takes to improve it. However, it isn’t rocket science either. Do you have a creative idea? If so, share it with us.

Topics: Healthy Living Obesity Weight Loss Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Health Promotion Prevention Chronic Disease Boss Making you fat? Overweight Lost Productivity

Workforce Well-Being: Blue Collar vs White Collar

Jennifer Rudloff

John Harris, Chief Well-Being Officer at Healthways, talks about our findings on well-being as they relates to blue collar and white collar workers. In this video, you'll learn more about the challenges impacting the well-being of your people and will gain insights into how to better engage your population based on their needs.

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Topics: Well-Being John Harris Workplace Well-Being Engagement Business Performance Wellness Life Evaluation Healthways Wellness Program

Connecting Consumer Voice

Jennifer Rudloff

Man on BenchIf you were hoping to develop a program that would appeal to the interests of mac users, it’s unlikely that you’d turn to PC users for advice. The same principles apply with well-being improvement solutions: In order to develop engaging healthcare solutions we must turn to our end users and understand their attitudes and motivations. Enter Healthways Well-Being Voice™, a newly created, on-line community of over 500 working and retired healthcare consumers who express their opinions, ideas, and attitudes, describing behaviors and motivations for improving their overall health and wellness among other topics:

  • Employer benefit program structure, incentives, and rewards
  • The role of and importance of communications
  • Perceptions of existing and potential products, solutions or services as well as reactions to marketing and web content ideas

The research community fosters collaborative input from individuals at varying health risk levels who deal with any of a number of chronic conditions in areas such as emotional/behavioral health, diabetic/metabolic and cardiovascular conditions, as well as those dealing with overweight and/or obesity issues. This is one of the first on-line social communities in which all aspects of Well-Being are potentially discussed, providing rich qualitative understanding to consumers needs.

Recently, we’ve gathered and applied insights in the following areas:

  • Listening to consumer definitions of Well-Being in their own words, members discuss the important balance between physical and emotional health. People describe details to us about their views of happiness, prosperity and the important role of family, friends and enjoying the activities of their choice.
  • Members share personal stories, sometimes coupled with photos submitted from times in their lives when they took significant measures to improve their health and they detail of the factors that influenced them. This is providing Healthways added consumer perspectives about behavioral change, incentive insights and engagement that we apply into our mission to enhance Well-Being Improvement Solutions for our clients and guide the development of new markets.
  • Nearly all of our members are mentioning challenges in diet, adhering to medication, exercise regularity and for some, smoking cessation. We’re getting wonderful stories from community members. One member noted that in the years following his military service, he realized he had a tendency to adopt a sedentary lifestyle. Once he returned to a more vigorous regiment of exercise, he found many health risks diminishing and his overall health improved. Another described how just a single flight of stairs resulted in shortness of breath which drove his own story of change. And another women described how the early loss of a parent resulted in personal motivation to slowly yet steadily move towards a healthier diet for her and her family.

Healthways certainly benefits from this community as we apply direct consumer voice and opinion into our suite of engaging solutions for total population health. But we’re not the only beneficiaries. The community members themselves are finding the interactions and introspections rewarding. As one commented, “It's great to find others on here where we share so much in common!” There’s no better way to learn than to learn from one another.

Topics: Market Research Workplace Well-Being Well-Being Voice Business Performance Community Needs Assessment Healthways Well-Being Voice Well-Being Improvement Solutions Healthways Wellness Program Online Community Consumers