The Well-Being Journal

Can Leaders Make or Break Well-Being Improvement Programs?

Sophie Leveque

Over the last several years, Healthways leaders have exhibited a high level of visible support for and engagement in our well-being improvement efforts. This high level of support from the top has helped us maximize program outcomes. Specifically, Healthways saw a 20 percent decrease, per member per month, in benefits spending during a five-year period.

In an earlier article, we explored this important role that leadership plays in sustaining a well-being culture and helping organizations see improved outcomes from their well-being improvement and wellness programs. Recently, Human Resource Executive (HRE) published an article that addresses this same issue, suggesting that the success of such programs is often strongly connected to how noticeably engaged organizational leaders are with them.

Featured in the article is Ross Scott, Healthways’ chief human resources officer, who discusses his views on the critical relationship between leadership and program effectiveness. Scott addresses a number of actions that leaders at Healthways have done to more visibly engage in the company’s well-being improvement effort, including wearing fitness attire, holding walking meetings, and taking the time to introduce colleagues who may not already know each other.

The HRE article also highlights two pieces of Healthways research that demonstrate the link between well-being and worker productivity: a study entitled "Comparing the Contributions of Well-Being and Disease Status to Employee Productivity" published last year in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®.

To learn more about the important role that executives play in leading well-being, read the full article here.

Topics: Well-Being In the News Workplace Well-Being Health in the Workplace Wellness Leadership

The Changing Face of the Caregiver

Sophie Leveque

Historically, when older loved ones were in need of caregiving, they didn’t have to look very far. There was usually a close family member who could easily step into the role. But, over the last several decades, much has changed when it comes to who fulfills the role of caregiver. It’s no longer a given that a dutiful daughter will take on caregiving responsibilities for an aging parent, a shifting tide that can be attributed to a combination of demographic and cultural changes. These changes are also having a profound impact on the caregiver experience.

Some of these shifts include:

  • Shrinking average family size. Fewer children means a smaller pool of caregivers from which to draw. From the caregiver perspective, there are fewer relatives with whom to share responsibilities or turn to when more intervention is needed.

  • Geographic distance. Nowadays, people are more open to moving away from their hometowns for educational, career and personal reasons, often leaving behind their parents and loved ones. This means that older adults don’t have immediate, local assistance, and that their children or younger relatives may often be providing care remotely.
  • Evolving cultural attitudes. Traditional expectations around the duty of younger generations for caring for their older relatives are changing. For example, some cultural traditions dictated that older parents move in with their adult-aged children, but shifting norms may have mitigated some of these cultural pressures. 

  • Employment trends. Historically, daughters whose own children were grown may have assumed the caregiving mantle, but as more women have joined the formal workforce, it has become more difficult for them to take on caregiving responsibilities.

  • More single-person households. If an adult child or loved one becomes a caregiver, there is not always someone within their own household who can “pick up the slack” and tend to normal family and household management.

  • Parents having children later in life. With the age gap widening between generations, modern caregivers may have more non-caregiving responsibilities they have may have had historically. They may be in a stage where their careers need a great deal of attention, may have young children of their own, or may still be finishing school.

  • Longer life expectancies. With advancements in medicine, caregiving is no longer the temporary arrangement it may have once been. Older adults may require more care for longer periods of time.
In a recent Healthways webinar on the relationship between caregiving and well-being, Joe Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab discussed these changing demographic and cultural trends in detail. According to Coughlin, the data suggests that these shifts will only become more marked over time, which, in turn, will only make caregiving more complex.

Infographic provided by Respect a Caregiver's Time (REAct).

Coughlin discussed some fascinating insights into the changing face of the modern caregiver. As he noted, in this new age of caregiving, the caregiver can be anyone: sons, daughters, spouses, friends, or siblings. That said, studies have shown that the responsibility for giving care usually—as it has historically— falls to women. These women are typically the spouse or oldest daughter of the individual needing care and are between the ages of 47 and 57.

But unlike the stereotypical caregiver—who never participated in the formal economy or is retired—we also know that modern day caregivers are often employed. Data from the 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® tells us that 13.4 percent of caregivers are full-time employees. And while traditionally caregivers have been middle-aged, Coughlin reports that today’s caregivers may be in a younger age category. As we discussed earlier, with caregivers skewing younger, they’re often working as well. In fact, the Well-Being Index tells us that nearly one in 10 full-time employees under the age of 45 is a caregiver.

As a result, today’s caregivers are often juggling the care of their aging loved ones, which for 25 percent of American families consumes more than 21 hours a week, with workplace responsibilities and their own families (see infographic). As Coughlin explored in our webinar, these multiple time and energy demands can have a dramatic effect on individual well-being, a topic we’re going to address in an upcoming article.

To learn more about shifting demographics around caregiving, as well as its link to well-being, please view our recent webinar, “The Costs of Caring: The Impact of Caregiving on your Population’s Well-Being". Our team of panelists also discussed several strategies for supporting caregivers in your organization.


Topics: Well-Being Aging Caregiving

Panama Leads the World Again in Overall Well-Being, as Revealed in New Report

Madison Agee

2014-Country-Rankings-ThumbNew country rankings from the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index show that, for the second time since last year’s inaugural report, Panama has the highest overall well-being in the world. The new report, “2014 Country Well-Being Rankings Report”, ranks 145 countries and areas based on the percentages of their residents that are thriving in three or more well-being elements.

The Americas have a strong presence in the ten countries with the world’s highest overall well-being, with seven countries on the list. After Panama, rounding out the top ten are Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Belize, Chile, Denmark, Guatemala, Austria and Mexico.

The five countries with the lowest levels of well-being are Tunisia, Togo, Cameroon, Bhutan and Afghanistan. In fact, in Afghanistan, no residents are thriving in three or more well-being elements, and none is thriving in purpose, social or financial well-being. 

Globally, higher well-being has been associated with outcomes indicative of stability and resilience — for example, healthcare utilization, intent to migrate, trust in elections and local institutions, daily stress, food/shelter security, volunteerism, and willingness to help others. 

The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals across the globe to create a unique view of societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. It is the most proven, mature and comprehensive measure of well-being in populations.

To see where other countries around the world fall within the rankings, download a copy of the report today. You can also subscribe to content from the Well-Being Index; by subscribing, we’ll let you know when we release new reports and insights from the Well-Being Index.
Topics: Well-Being Well-Being Index Global Report

What Can Happen When an Employer More Visibly Supports a Culture of Well-Being?

Madison Agee

As we’ve explored earlier, organizational culture can play a pivotal role in the overall success of a well-being improvement program. If their cultures aren’t supportive of (or even worse, if they’re inhospitable to) well-being, even the most thoughtful, well-designed programs can struggle to deliver the kinds of valuable outcomes employers want to see.

A mid-sized employer in the insurance industry recognized this link between culture and program outcomes, so it worked with Healthways to develop and implement a more purposeful culture of well-being within the organization. Some of the initiatives the employer and Healthways focused on were fostering support among leadership and launching activities such as employee challenges and access to fitness classes. Additionally, the employer partnered with Healthways to create and deploy an overall well-being improvement program, which included assessments, action plans, health coaching and web-based resources.

A study recently published by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) explores the outcomes of this well-being improvement program and the associated cultural enhancements. Covering a two-year period and authored by the Healthways Center for Health Research, “Well-Being Improvement in a Mid-Size Employer: Changes in Well-Being, Productivity, Health Risk and Perceived Employer Support after Implementation of a Well-Being Improvement Strategy is unique in that it’s the very first study to show that employer support for a well-being culture can positively contribute to program outcomes. Specifically, the study established that, for every 1.0 point increase in the perception of employer support for well-being, there was a corresponding 1.9 point increase in overall well-being score.

Over the two-year period of the study, overall well-being among employees improved 7.3 points, a 10.4 percent increase. By the conclusion of the study, overall well-being at the employer had, in fact, even outpaced the well-being of the surrounding community, despite starting significantly below the community average.

The six specific dimensions of well-being measured by the study also all improved. For example, healthy behaviors jumped an impressive 42 percent over the two years, while emotional health improved 12 percent. This improvement in overall well-being and its dimensions was mirrored by a corresponding decrease in the percentage of employees with health risks such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and tobacco usage. The group of employees who have two or fewer of these risks increased 13 percent over the study period.

The study also shows a boost in productivity that occurred after the well-being improvement program was implemented. Self-reported job performance improved 2 percent, and on-the-job productivity loss (i.e., presenteeism) decreased by a notable 21 percent. All of these outcomes support earlier research that showed the positive results that can occur following implementation of a well-being improvement strategy.

Employers interested in seeing similar results may be wondering how they can get started on building a culture that is more supportive of well-being. In our “9 Ways to Think Big, Start Small,” we’ve compiled nine top ways to activate a culture of well-being within your organization. We’ve even included easy examples of each to help start the process today.

Topics: Well-Being Productivity Science and Research