Multi-year occupational health promotion program can reduce health risks for people of working age

A multi-year occupational health promotion program can slow the increase in health risks for people of working age. A study by the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at Jyväskylä University tracked the type of changes that occurred in participants during an eight-year occupational health promotion program regarding smoking, minor exercises, high blood pressure, musculoskeletal disorders and overweight. The results of the study were encouraging for health promotion.

According to previous studies, a high number of health risks are linked to rising costs of health care at work, declining productivity at work and increasing number of sick leave. Multi-year preventive actions in the workplace have not yet been much studied and no research results were until now available to study what changes in health risks can be obtained over several years of intervention.

Previous studies have indicated that prevention is possible, but most of the programs studied lasted only one to three years. Our research has shown that in the long term we can prevent people in the low to moderate risk groups from moving to the high health risk group. “

Antti Äikäs, PhD student, University of Jyväskylä

According to the research results, the study group posed less health risks than average Finns of working age. Health risk assessments showed that 50-60% of male-dominated staff were classified in the low health risk group (0-1 risks), 30-35% in the moderate group (2- 3 risks), and 9 to 11% in the high risk group for health (more than 4 risks).

The study also compared the changes between low, moderate and high risk groups during the multi-year health promotion program, and found that most staff stayed at the same level, 13-15% improved their rating, while the rating deteriorated to only 12-21%.

The impacts of aging have been delayed

Health risks tend to become more common as people get older. 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,” ikäs notes. “The results are encouraging for the maintenance of working capacity and the improvement of national health.”

The study examined a multi-year occupational health promotion program carried out by a Finnish forestry company (N = 523-651) and a Finnish welfare company 4event Ltd from 2010 to 2017. The average age of participants was of 43.8 years. Over 120 separate services were performed across Finland during the program. In the first four years, services have focused on supporting employee lifestyle change, and the last four years have been focused on mental resources and the work atmosphere. The incidence of health risks was studied through three different health risk assessments by performing physiological measurements and questionnaires in 2010-2011, 2013-2014 and 2016-2017.

This article is part of the thesis of Antti Äikäs, funded by the Juho Vainio Foundation and the Urheiluopistosäätiö. Äikäs previously worked as Wellness Business Manager at 4event Ltd.


Journal reference:

Äikäs, A., et al. (2021) Eight-year health risk trend analysis of a comprehensive workplace health promotion program. International journal of environmental and public health research.

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