Recent survey results released by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) show that although employees want to improve their health, many find that the demands of work, personal life, and overall stress levels make it difficult for them to achieve their health improvement goals, according to an NBGH press release.

In its survey, the NBGH found that a vast majority of employees (88 percent) have taken steps to improve their health within the past year or have been regularly doing so for more than a year. However, nearly half of those surveyed (47 percent) say work demands are preventing them from leading a healthier life.

“U.S. employers should be encouraged to see that a large portion of workers want to improve their health and are getting involved in various health promotion programs,” said Helen Darling, NBGH president. “In fact, while some employees are taking action to improve their health for the first time this year, many more have actually been involved in health-related activities for more than one year.”

One out of four workers said they are more stressed today than they were two years ago, according to survey results. The three top stress factors cited are work and finances, both cited by 54 percent of respondents, and work/life balance cited by 43 percent. A third of respondents indicated they would take advantage of stress management programs if offered at work.

“Growing levels of stress among workers is clearly an issue employers will have to address, especially as employees becoming increasingly concerned about the current economic crisis. Employers will need to consider new programs and better utilize existing programs such as stress management courses, support groups, and referrals to mental health professionals to help employees reduce stress,” said Darling.

About three-fourths of respondents (74 percent) also stated that they are trying to adopt healthier lifestyles today with the hope their health care costs will be more manageable in the future, while slightly more than one half (54 percent) are saving money to cover health care costs in the future.

“Employees are clearly faced with numerous hurdles to achieving their health goals,” said Ms. Darling. “Yet, with the ever rising cost of health care, they appear undaunted in their resolve to improve their health as a means of reducing future health costs.”

The role of employer communications
The survey found that workers benefit from their employers’ health plan communication efforts. Half of all respondents say the health care benefit communications they receive from either their employer or health plan are very valuable or extremely valuable. More than four out of ten (43 percent) said they took action to improve their overall health based on these communications.

“Our survey amply demonstrates that employer health plan offerings and communications catalyze employee health improvement efforts,” stated Ms. Darling. “Employers can strengthen their impact on employee health efforts to reduce costs by identifying and addressing the real or perceived barriers to utilization of wellness and health improvement services, and continuing to drive the conversation about the importance of using health services effectively.”

A total of 1,502 employees participated in the study, which was conducted in July 2008. To participate, workers had to be full- or part-time employees between the ages of 22 and 69, working for an employer with a minimum of 2,000 employees and insured through an employer-sponsored or union-sponsored health plan.

The National Business Group on Health is a non-profit association of 300 large U.S. companies. For more information,