A multiyear workplace health promotion program can slow down the increase in health risks for working-age people. A study by the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä followed what kind of changes happened among participants during an eight-year workplace health promotion program in smoking, minor exercise, high blood pressure, musculoskeletal disorders, and overweight. The results of the study were encouraging for health promotion.
According to earlier studies, a high number of health risks are connected to an increase in occupational health care costs, lower productivity at work, and the growing number of sickness absences. Multiyear preventive actions at workplaces have not yet been studied much, and no research results have previously been available for studying which changes in health risks can be achieved during several years of intervention.
“Earlier studies have indicated that prevention is possible, but most of the studied programs have lasted only from one to three years,” states Antti Äikäs, a doctoral student at the University of Jyväskylä. “Our research showed that in the long run we can prevent people in the low- or moderate-level risk groups from transitioning into the group of high-level health risks.”
According to the research results, the study group had fewer health risks than average Finnish working-age people.The health risk assessments showedthat 50–60% of the male-dominated personnel were categorized to the low-level health risk group (0–1 risks), 30–35% to the moderate-level group (2–3 risks), and 9–11% to the high-level health risk group (more than four risks).
The study also compared changes between low-, moderate- and high-risk groups during the multiyear health promotion program, and found that most of the personnel remained at the same level, 13–15% improved their rating, while the rating deteriorated for only 12–21%.
Impacts of aging were delayed
Health risks tend to get more common as people age. However, this study showed no statistically significant growth in the total number of health risks in the target population.
“Our research team detected improvements as well as deterioration among the participants, which means that the overall change was minimal,” Äikäs notes. “The results are encouraging for maintaining working ability and enhancing national health.”
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