You are here: ENWHPWorkplace Health Promotion > Topics > Healthy Lifestyle - Healthy Living and Working

Healthy Lifestyle - Healthy Living and Working

Lifestyle-related behaviours such as diet, physical activity, tobacco use and stress exert a strong influence on health. European as well as American and Canadian studies report overweight and obesity, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes as the major health risks and diseases mainly due to an "unhealthy" lifestyle.

By presenting the leading 10 risk factors as percentage causes of disease burden in the developed countries the figures of the World Health Report 2002 clearly prove the important impact of nutrition, exercise, tobacco use and stress on health.

Lifestyle is not merely a private issue: Health is now accepted as an important part of workability and employability and also dictates how well the demands for greater flexibility in the world of work can be met.
More and more employers have realized the connection between lifestyle habits, good health, decreased absenteeism, lower medical costs, improved performance and higher productivity.

European enterprises are faced with increasing costs due to absenteeism. Interest in health promotion among employers has grown because medical care costs have become unaffordable by most employers. In the EU for example, obesity accounts for 7% of the health care costs while in the US at least 25% of the total annual medical costs per employee in large organisations are attributable to an unhealthy lifestyle. Medical care costs increase with age, and with a growing Body Mass Index. Furthermore, direct medical costs account for only one quarter of the total cost of poor health. One of the highest costs is from employees who come to work but are not fully productive because of health problems. Other costs include absenteeism, and long and short term disability.

That's why workplace health promotion (WHP) programmes have become very popular. But the existing traditional programmes, however, which are generally focused on individual lifestyle risk behaviours such as inactivity, poor nutrition and smoking, only have little impact. Programmes based solely on behaviour usually fail, as people tend to revert to old behaviours when programmes are withdrawn. Successful programmes for example measure health conditions and interests, help people set goals, train them in the skills they need to improve health practices, and provide opportunities to maintain those behaviours.

Recent interventions and concepts have led to a more comprehensive approach that addresses both worker and organisational health, and which tends to effect behavioural change combined with improved working conditions and environments. So for example healthy eating habits can be facilitated in the staff restaurant and healthy physical exercise can be integrated into everyday working life. The foundation for this is created by an employee-oriented design and organisation of work and a supporting corporate culture.

Encouraging more enterprises throughout Europe to investing in more and better health at work - this was the aim of Move Europe. ENWHP has developed its 7th initiative on life-style related WHP, focusing on the combination of the following 4 fields: physical exercise, smoking prevention, nutrition and mental health. Special attention will be attributed to the field of physical exercise. The initiative was designed as a campaign which sets quality standards for Good Practice in behaviour-related WHP, identifies complying models and disseminates these results throughout Europe.