Media releases

November 22, 2005

Healthy employees are three times more productive

Australian workers with "poor" health have up to nine times the annual sick days of workers with "good" health according to new research released today by Medibank Private.

The research - the first of its kind in Australia - confirms previous international studies that suggest an employee's health and lifestyle impacts upon their productivity at work.

Medibank's research also found that employees with poor health and lifestyles have higher levels of "presenteeism" (being unproductive while at work). The healthiest employees were nearly three times more productive while at work than the least healthy - 143 effective working hours per month versus 49 effective hours worked per month.

Medibank Private's survey on a sample population of Australian workers found:
� 28% are clinically obese (compared to 15% for the general population ), and a further 34% are overweight (compared to 46.2 for the general population );
� 46% of Australians workers have high-fat diets;
� 21% smoke daily;
� 53% report feeling overwhelmed with pressure and stress a "significant amount of the time";
� 62% do not do the minimum amount of exercise recommended by the Australian National Activity Guidelines;
� 56% of workers get less than seven hours sleep per night; 22% report feeing unrefreshed or exhausted at work; and
� 29% suffer back, neck or spinal problems;12% suffer depression.

The Federal Minster for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, urged employers to consider how they can support their employees to maintain healthy lifestyles.

"While employers are starting to prepare for the implications of an aging workforce, they also need to better understand and deal with how health issues, such as the obesity epidemic, affect their labour force.

"Employers can have an active role in encouraging their employees to maintain good health.

"Fostering good nutrition, stress management and exercise in the workplace is not only good for individuals and their families, it's good for business too," Minister Andrews said.

Medibank Private Chief Operating Officer, Simon Blair, said that lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking, lack of physical activity and excess weight contribute to this absenteeism and lost productivity for Australian employers.

"Employers have got to stop thinking that absenteeism is something they can't control because it's caused by random illnesses such as viruses.

"The survey results suggest that many workplace absences are the result of workplace stress and lifestyle factors - things we can influence through regular physical activity, healthy diets, stress management and adequate sleep," Mr Blair said.

The study also found that Australian workers are less healthy than their UK colleagues, with 45% of the Australian population in the "high risk" health category, compared to 30% for a comparable UK population sample.

The online study was conducted by AMR Interactive with 3,620 workers from corporate (74%) and non-corporate (26%) Australia. In the study, employees answered questions relating to their physical activity, nutrition, body weight, stress, behaviour, sleep, pain and medical health and, based on these results, workers were assigned a Health and Well-Being Score (HWB) from 0 to 100, with those scoring less than 30 considered "high risk".

Medibank Private also commissioned Monash University researchers to conduct a literature review of research into work place health. The review documented a number of international studies whose findings were consistent with those of the Medibank Private research.

View The health of Australia's workforce.

For further information or media interviews please contact:

Libby Woolnough
Media Relations Adviser
Medibank Private
Mobile: 0411 659 0610

Back to top