A new study by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found nearly 47 percent of workers have access to workplace health promotion programs (WHPPs). Among those with access, only 58 percent of workers take advantage of them. The study was recently published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
Employees in the construction industry are among the bottom tier of occupations in terms of both availability of and participation in WHPPs.
Worksites, where working adults spend a majority of their time, are an ideal place to offer health promotion programs that could improve workers’ physical and mental health, NIOSH says. However, many workers with access to WHPPs had never participated in any of these programs. Since each workplace is unique, this study recommends that employers evaluate and tailor WHPPs based on their workers’ needs to improve participation.
The study, “Availability of and Participation in Workplace Health Promotion Programs by Sociodemographic, Occupation, and Work Organization Characteristics in US Workers,” describes the availability of and participation in WHPPs. The study also looks at how sociodemographic and work organization characteristics affect participation in WHPPs.
Results by sociodemographic characteristics:
- Availability of WHPPs increased as education, family income and personal earnings increased.
- Workers aged 30 to 64 were more likely than younger workers to participate in WHPPs.
- Non-Hispanic black workers were more likely than non-Hispanic white to participate in WHPPs.
Results by occupation:
- The occupation with the highest availability of WHPPs was computer and mathematical (76.1 percent), while workers in farming, fishing, and forestry (3.1 percent), food preparation and serving related (17.2 percent), and construction and extraction (23.7 percent) occupations reported the lowest availability.
- Occupations with the highest participation (given availability of WHPPs) were arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media (68.4 percent); management (68 percent); and community and social services (66.7 percent). Meanwhile, farming, fishing, and forestry (26 percent); food preparation and serving related (42.4 percent); and construction and extraction (45.3 percent) were least likely to participate.
Results by how work is organized:
- Work locations with more employees were more likely to offer WHPPs, while workers with nonstandard work arrangements (i.e., independent, temporary or contract), workers who were paid by the hour, and workers on evening and rotating shifts were less likely to have WHPPs available to them.
- Workers who supervised others were 13 percent more likely to participate than non-supervisors. Workers who worked up to 20 hours a week, worked regular night shifts, were paid by the hour, or worked for temporary agencies were less likely to participate in WHPPs.
“Workers have different needs and circumstances depending on factors such as occupation, working night shifts or being paid by the hour,” says Dr. Rebecca Tsai, an epidemiologist and the lead author of the study. “We recommend that employers tailor their workplace health promotion programs based on their specific work organization characteristics in order to maximize participation.”
Noted barriers to participation in WHPPs include time constraints, lack of awareness, little to no supervisory support, and no perceived need. The study emphasizes that to increase participation, employers should gauge workers’ needs before designing and implementing WHPPs. A workplace free from hazardous working conditions should also have policies, programs and practices within the workplace that advance the safety, health and well-being of the workforce.
More information about overall health and well-being in the workplace is available on NIOSH’s Total Worker Health Program webpage.
NIOSH is the federal institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths.