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UK workers ‘overly optimistic’ about personal health

UK workers are “overly optimistic” about their personal health, despite the fact that many are at high risk from health conditions, according to research from Britain’s Healthiest Companies and the University of Cambridge.

The research found that 51% of employees with four or more ‘risk factors’ that could lead to serious health problems still consider their health to be good or very good. That is despite the fact that a third (33%) of the UK workforce is overweight and 15% are obese.

Speaking at a VitalityHealth Corporate Wellness seminar, VitalityHealth director of corporate and intermediated business Greg Levine said people were “overly optimistic”. “They don't want to confront the brutal facts around their personal wellbeing,” he added.

Adidas HR director Tony Cooke said employers should show their workforces “frightening and shocking statistics around the ignorance of health”. “People will relate to them,” he added.

Cooke also spoke of the importance of identifying people to act as role models, but using employees members of staff can relate to. “Use people that may not have been the first people to take up the wellness programme,” he advised.

He added that although employees increasingly expect wellbeing schemes to be freely available, incentivising staff to get involved was still important as “it’s not the coolest thing to be part of a wellness programme”.

Cooke said Adidas was focusing on “mind, body and soul” in its wellbeing strategy, with cognitive behavioural therapy and support around emotional wellbeing the most popular offerings among staff.

He said: “We live in a 24/7 environment that has therefore caused a lot of cases around stress, mental illness and mental fatigue. Employees won’t tell their managers that they are struggling as it is seen as a sign of weakness.”

When it comes to the cost to business of mental ill health Mercer Health and Benefits head of health management consulting Wolfgang Seidl cited statistics that show mental health costs UK businesses £8.4 billion a year in absenteeism and £15.1 billion in presenteeism.

He said: “People are turning up for work but are not as productive as they should be because of mental health issues”