January 24, 2020
Four in 10 workers around the world are concerned about their health but don’t want to go to the doctor, a new research report has claimed. Although 40% of workers said they are worried about their long-term health, the same number hadn’t had a health check in the last year and most have no idea about basic indicators such as what their cholesterol level or body fat is. Inflexible and long working hours are compounding the problem, the report by Aetna International suggested, as employees feel unable to take time off to manage their health.
The findings were revealed in a report, “How organisations can overcome employee health inertia”, which explores the attitudes to health of 4,000 office workers in the US, UK, UAE and Singapore. Some 40 percent of those surveyed revealed they don’t go to the doctor to get health issues checked, even if they are concerned, and nearly a quarter said they are too scared to get a check-up.
To compound this, very few know basic indicators of their own health such as what their cholesterol level is (known by 33 percent) or their body fat percentage (known by 29 percent). A lower proportion of employees in the UK and US know what their blood pressure, cholesterol or body mass index (BMI) are than their counterparts in the UAE and Singapore.
Most workers globally acknowledge they could do more to improve their health, with over half (55 percent) admitting their diet needs improvement and nearly three quarters (72 percent) saying they need to exercise more. When people do feel ill, however, 40 percent say they tend to look up symptoms online and self-medicate rather than seeking out a doctor.
Dr Sneh Khemka, President, Population Health & vHealth, Aetna International, said: “While the majority of workers are aware they need to do more to improve their health, fear and worry is causing a huge number to avoid the situation. More should be done to empower people to manage their own health, with a focus on changing company cultures to promote prevention and early intervention. It is not only the responsibility of the employee but that of the employer to ensure people are equipped to lead healthy lives.”
Long and inflexible working hours may be to blame, as a third say they don’t have time to be ill at work and a fifth (21 percent) cite lack of time off from work as the reason behind their health inertia.
Long-hours culture to blame
Increasing pressure in the workplace is having a significant impact on how people prioritise their health, the report suggests. Almost half (47 percent) of those surveyed admit that they often feel stressed because of work but don’t see a doctor about the issue. Long and inflexible working hours may be to blame, as a third say they don’t have time to be ill at work and a fifth (21 percent) cite lack of time off from work as the reason behind their health inertia.
The results also indicate that employers could play a bigger role in encouraging people to look after their health, with more than a quarter (27 percent) of office workers saying they would go to the doctor if their boss told them to. Nearly half (46 percent) also say the ability to take time off work to go to the doctor would encourage them to make an appointment.
Image by Jukka Niittymaa