Discovery urges employees to flex their corporate muscles

28 February 2012 Discovery Health

Entries for the biggest workplace wellness survey in South Africa have been opened. Now in its second year, the Discovery Healthy Company Index, a joint initiative with the University of The Witwatersrand and Prof Ron Goetzel from Emory University in the

The findings of last year’s survey showed South African employees face major health risks – with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression being the most common chronic conditions.

Last year’s winner, Business Systems Group (Africa) – BSG – was found to have the healthiest employees.

The survey rates companies in terms of the healthiest workplace, highest motivation to improve health, greatest health knowledge, most physically active, best shape, most smoke-free and the least stressed employees. The analysis was conducted by researchers from the University of Witwatersrand.

“The inaugural Healthy Company Index surveyed some 13 500 employees within over 100 companies, says Dr Craig Nossel, Head of Vitality Wellness at Discovery. “It was rewarding to see that companies are increasingly rolling out wellness initiatives in the workplace, and we would like to encourage more companies to enter so that their efforts can be recognised. The research however is clear that more needs to be done to arrest the rising burden of disease”

“Many people spend most of their waking time at work. The workplace is therefore an ideal environment to promote healthy living and employers need to take responsibility for promoting the health and wellbeing of their employees,” says Dr Nossel.

On average 71% of employees have a higher ‘Vitality Age’ at an average of 3.4 years higher than their actual age. The biggest driver of higher Vitality Age among South African employees is high cholesterol levels, high Body Mass Index (BMI) and smoking.

Vitality Age is an estimate of a person’s health by looking at certain health risk factors – those factors showing how a healthy lifestyle is keeping the person ‘young’ or making him or her ‘older’ than he or she is. The average actual age of the employees surveyed was 36.4 but the average Vitality Age was 39.8, meaning that employees are losing on average 3.4 years or almost 10% of life because of poor lifestyle habits.

According to Prof Karen Milner from Wits University, “Research has shown that the health of employees can have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. The issue of workplace health and wellness is consequently an important priority for many decisions makers in business” .

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