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Sedentary lifestyle, stress biggest health risks for employees: survey

The sedentary nature of Canadian workplaces is becoming as much of a health risk as stress for many workers.

That's according to a new wellness survey from Sun Life Financial, which found 24 per cent of Canadian employers consider work-related stress and sedentary lifestyles the most serious health risks affecting their employees.


October 29, 2013
By By Romina Maurino The Canadian Press

"Stress has been the number one for many years, what we’re seeing now is
that stress is staying very high on the radar for employers and they’re
certainly recognizing work-related stress is a key issue, but sedentary
lifestyle has now crept up as a key concern and key factor," said Lori
Casselman, assistant vice-president of group benefits at Sun Life.

Ninety-two
per cent of organizations surveyed recognized that the health of their
employees influences overall corporate performance, since healthy
employees mean more productivity, better attendance and a stronger
bottom line, the report found.

Sapna Mahajan, director of
prevention and promotion with the Mental Health Commission of Canada,
says 500,000 Canadians are absent from work every week due to mental
health issues
and it`s costing the national economy $50 billion a year.

"It’s a huge economic cost and it’s one that just can’t be ignored anymore by business," Mahajan said.

The
commission set out a national standard earlier this year, which Mahajan
hopes companies will use as a guide to both prevent and accommodate
mental health issues.

"We’re not saying that you’re not going to have stresses at work or anxiety," Mahajan said.

"But
maybe there are certain things you can put in place — processes,
policies and structures — to try to avoid as much as possible that
psychological harm, and to have structures in place so that if people
aren’t feeling well, there’s a way to accommodate them."

He adds that once somebody goes off work, it’s harder to have them back.

The
Sun Life study found that 62 per cent of the companies surveyed offer
wellness initiatives, with 51 per cent reporting an increase in employee
morale and a 40 per cent drop in absenteeism as a result of such
programs.

But in order for such initiates to work, Casselman says
employers must promote them so that employees take advantage of the
programs, and also provide rewards to those who do participate.

"Programs
that are offered in the workplace are largely very well received by
employees if they’re offered in the right way, with the right
incentives," she said.

The Sun Life Buffett National Wellness
Survey was conducted over the spring and summer of 2013, with a national
sample of 400 Canadian employers representing public, private and
not-for-profit organizations ranging in size from less than 100
employees to more than 2,500.

Earlier this month, the American
Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has cited a growing body of evidence
that support the benefits of massage therapy to mental health, helping
alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.

The AMTA’s
annual consumer survey, conducted in Aug. 2013, revealed more Americans
are incorporating massage therapy into their regular health and wellness
regiments to assist with medical conditions. About 32 per cent cited
stress as the primary reason for receiving a massage.


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