March 20, 2015

St. Joseph Health Expands Workplace Wellness Programs to Improve Employee Well-Being

At the 2015 Integrated Benefits Institute Annual Forum in San Francisco this week, Elizabeth Glenn-Bottari, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Integrative Health St. Joseph Health in Irvine, California, discussed health and productivity management guided by a workforce’s professional, social and emotional well-being. St. Joseph Health has partnered with Healthways to better understand and improve employee well-being, developing a program that has reduced high claims costs, absenteeism and presenteeism. As Glenn-Bottari was quoted in the March 18, 2015 issue of Business Insurance, “we feel that the investment is meaningful, because we can see from the data that we are influencing our employees’ health and well-being.”

Click here to read the article (registration may be required, but is complimentary).

Written by: Madison Agee

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March 03, 2015

New Report Ranks U.S. States by Their Overall Well-Being

WBI State InfographicA recently released report from Gallup and Healthways ranks all 50 states in the United States based on their respective well-being, and at the very top of the list is Alaska. While not a newcomer to the top ten states with the highest well-being – it has made an appearance four out of the last seven years – 2014 marks the first time Alaska leads the country in well-being. Rounding out the top five are Hawaii, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Last year’s leading state, North Dakota, tumbled this year to 23rd.

For the sixth consecutive year, West Virginia and Kentucky have the lowest well-being in the United States, ranking 50th and 49th, respectively. Other states that have appeared in the bottom ten all seven years are Arkansas, Ohio and Mississippi.

This information appears in “The State of American Well-Being: 2014 State Well-Being Rankings,” which is based on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®. The Well-Being Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals across the globe to create a unique view of societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. Read more about the new rankings.

We’re also excited to announce a brand-new way to make sure you’re the first to know when we release new reports based on the Well-Being Index. By subscribing to content from the Well-Being Index, we’ll let you know when we release new reports, insights, analysis and information. Next up, we’ll explore well-being in large communities across the United States.

Written by: Madison Agee

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February 03, 2015

Improving Well-Being in a Challenging Population

Retail Industry

The scientific literature on the impact of well-being improvement programs has historically overlooked the retail industry.

When you think of the type of organization that implements a well-being improvement program in its workforce population, what comes to mind? If you’re like many people, you’re probably imagining a professional services organization with a predominantly white-collar workforce — the type of environment where employees usually have good healthcare coverage and long employment tenures.

It’s no different when it comes to the scientific literature that has looked at the outcomes of programs such as workplace wellness and employee well-being improvement. Studies have historically focused on professional, white-collar environments, essentially ignoring industries such as retail and warehousing where workers are typically more blue-collar. Thus, the recent publication of a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) provides a much-needed and unique contribution to the scientific body, as it examines the outcomes of a well-being intervention program among a mostly blue-collar employee population.

The study, “Well-being, Health and Productivity After an Employee Well-being Intervention in Large Retail Distribution Centers” was authored by the Healthways Center for Health Research and reveals the positive outcomes that occurred following a Healthways-driven well-being intervention at a large retail employer. Supporting what is perhaps a common assumption regarding blue-collar workers, the participants in this study, on average, faced significantly more challenges than individuals in the surrounding community. These challenges included lower overall well-being scores, physical health, healthy behaviors, basic access and ability to afford food.

Despite these pre-intervention challenges, the employees in the study achieved measurable improvements in overall well-being scores, biometric measurements and workplace productivity over a six-month period. For example, overall well-being improved by nearly 2.5 points, while healthy behaviors improved 12.1 percent. Additionally, total cholesterol dropped an average of 10.8 points, and on-the-job productivity improved by 18.8 percent.

In addition to being traditionally associated with white-collar environments, workplace wellness and well-being intervention programs are often expected to require significant time to produce successful outcomes. Therefore, employers in industries in which high turnover among workers is common (such as retail) may be reluctant to implement programs that are perceived as long-term investments in their workforce. This study shows, however, that after only six months of intervention, participants realized noticeable improvement in all three categories of metrics in the study: well-being scores, biometric measurements and on-the-job productivity.

This may be especially appealing given the significant improvement in productivity that was seen during this study —results similar to the 18.8 percent improvement seen in the study over just a six-month period could be incredibly important in many workplaces. To read more about improving on-the-job productivity, download a copy of Healthways’ eBook 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Improving Productivity in the Workplace.

Written by: Madison Agee

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January 22, 2015

Are Your Employees Hung Over from the Holidays?

Hungover at workWe’re not talking about the kind of hangover you get from one too many eggnogs, or even a food hangover from too many cookies. We mean a spending hangover. We’ve all been there—opening January’s credit card statement to see just how much damage we did to our wallets during the holidays. Even the most budget-conscious among us may have been a little too generous in December, which means January came as a rude awakening.

Unfortunately, the distraction of financial stress isn’t unique to the holidays. According to a 2014 survey by PwC, nearly a quarter of employees say their finances are a distraction while at work. This is especially a concern for millennials, 35 percent of whom are diverting their on-the-job attention to managing issues related to personal finance. Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management confirms that financial stress is a concern for many HR professionals—61 percent say it’s having “some impact” on work performance, while another 22 percent concede it’s a “large impact.”

The PwC research went a step further and quantified how much productive time organizations are losing to their employees’ financial worries. Nearly one in four employees (39 percent) are spending three or more hours per week thinking about or managing their personal finances. In 2012, MetLife found that another 22 percent have admitted to taking unexpected time off to deal with a financial issue.

And it’s not just reductions to on-the-job productivity that could be negatively influencing your bottom line. As we’ve discussed here before, financial stress can lead to serious health and well-being risks, such as cardiovascular disease, depression and substance abuse. These risks can then translate into a number of unwelcome outcomes for both employee and employer, such as higher healthcare costs and increased absenteeism.

The good news is that many employers are realizing the negative impact their employees’ finances are having on their bottom line and addressing this through financial wellness programs. MetLife revealed that 40 percent of employers are offering some sort of financial education program to their workers, although the makeup of these programs can vary considerably. Having an annual visit from the 401(k) representative may be a good start to managing employees’ financial stress, but this may not be the most important way you can help your workers.

It’s important to remember that financial well-being is part of a larger well-being context, interrelated to your employees’ sense of purpose, physical health, social relationships and community connections. Addressing all of these elements together can bolster the overall success of efforts aimed at helping your employees avoid spending hangovers and other sources of financial stress in the future.

To learn more about financial well-being, its impact in the workplace and holistic methods for addressing it, listen to a recording of our webinar, “Healthcare’s Quiet Emergency: The Impact of Employee Financial Well-Being on Health, Productivity and Your Bottom Line.”

Written by: Madison Agee

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January 20, 2015

What Happens When an Organization Creates a Culture of Well-Being?

To truly maximize the potential benefits of a well-being improvement program, organizations would be well-served to take a close look at their corporate cultures, asking themselves probing questions such as:

  • Do our underlying attitudes and assumptions reflect a true commitment to well-being?
  • Are we actively supporting our employees’ well-being?
  • Have our leaders fully bought into the business case for improved well-being?
  • Are we properly encouraging and rewarding well-being behaviors?

The answers to these questions can help determine whether the organizational culture is supporting or inhibiting the eventual success of the well-being improvement program. Without a true well-being culture, organizations may never see the types of measurable results they’re expecting for their investment. On the other hand, organizations that purposefully set out to create, implement and sustain a culture of well-being have a much better chance of realizing outcomes such as reduced healthcare costs, improved on-the-job productivity and lower rates of absenteeism.

Over the last several years, Healthways has focused on creating an environment that recognizes and fosters well-being for its colleagues. We’ve done this in conjunction with a well-rounded well-being improvement effort, which includes programs and policies designed to address all elements of well-being — purpose, social, financial, community and physical. As a result, our colleagues enjoy what they do, are motivated to achieve their goals, and cultivate the supportive relationships and good health they need for optimal performance.

With this twin focus on culture and programs, we’ve achieved some remarkable success — for example, we improved overall well-being among our colleagues by 16.3 percent in five years — and we’re looking forward to sharing many of these outcomes with you in the near future. But one exciting result of our efforts is the external recognition and acclaim we received in 2014 alone.

For example, Healthways received the 2014 Gallup Great Workplace Award, which is given to organizations that understand that employee engagement drives real business outcomes. Award recipients have mastered how to engage their workforces and have demonstrated a quantifiable impact as a result of having a more engaged workforce. In fact, Healthways is currently trumping the U.S. average of less than two engaged workers for every actively disengaged worker, with ten engaged associates for every actively disengaged associate.

Here’s a sampling of some other recognition Healthways received last year:

If you’re interested in creating a culture of well-being within your own organization and maximizing your potential for external recognition, we’ve put together some questions you can use to help establish how mature your well-being culture currently is. These questions also provide some guidance to help you develop an action plan for taking it to where you want it to be.

Written by: Madison Agee

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January 12, 2015

The Top 10 Well-Being Moments of 2014

With 2014 behind us, there’s no better time to reflect on last year’s top well-being moments. Editors at Gallup have compiled ten of the more important insights from the Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index™. Ranging from issues like the rate of uninsured Americans to how older people feel about their physical appearance, these findings provide an interesting look into well-being in the United States.

Written by: Madison Agee

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December 18, 2014

Power of Yoga to Improve Cardiovascular Risk

Is yoga good for your heart? It could be as healthy for your heart as cycling.

According to a new study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, yoga may be as beneficial as more traditional physical activities such as walking or biking in reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.

Investigators from the United States and Netherlands conducted a systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials, which included 2,768 subjects. The aim of the analysis was to examine whether yoga is beneficial in managing and improving cardiovascular disease risk factors and whether it could be an effective therapy for cardiovascular health.

The study compared those who practiced yoga with those who didn’t. Those who practiced yoga had:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Increased HDL (good cholesterol)

Results showed that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those practicing yoga than in those not taking part in any aerobic exercise. In fact, yoga had an effect on risk factors comparable to aerobic exercise.

The study’s authors write, “This finding is significant, as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in [cardiovascular] risk reduction.” They go on to observe that “Yoga has the potential to be a cost-effective treatment and prevention strategy given its low cost, lack of expensive equipment or technology, potential greater adherence and health-related quality of life improvements, and possible accessibility to larger segments of the population.”

The prevalence and cost of cardiac disease is growing. As the number 1 cause of death in America, heart disease accounts for some 600,000 deaths per year. Indeed, 40 percent of the U.S. population is expected to have some form of cardiovascular disease in the next 20 years, according to the American Heart Association. The cost of heart disease in healthcare services, medications, and lost productivity tops $109 billion per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The American Heart Association still recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, but this study could lead to yoga as a recommended therapy for patients with risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Linking yoga to cardiovascular health is not a new concept—for over 30 years, Dr. Dean Ornish has recommended yoga for reducing stress. In fact, the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart DiseaseTM includes yoga as one of the fundamental activities for reversing heart disease. To learn more about the Ornish program, please visit

Written by: Amy Katz

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December 09, 2014

Understanding Well-Being in Europe, Region of Strong Contrasts

In a recent webinar, experts from Gallup and Healthways shared insights into the state of well-being in Europe. Using data from the recently released Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index™, the panelists discussed issues ranging from why well-being measurement matters to the specific challenges that Europe is facing regarding well-being. They also proposed some steps European nations can take to improve well-being, such as leveraging evidence-based tools and respecting cultural differences when delivering solutions.

The Global Well-Being Index is a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being. The most comprehensive measure of well-being in the world, the Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals to capture the important aspects of how people feel about and experience their daily lives, extending well beyond conventional measures of physical health or economic indicators. The five elements of well-being are purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

When it comes to well-being, Europe is a region characterized by considerable disparity among countries. On one end of the spectrum are countries such as Denmark, Austria and Sweden, whose percentages of residents thriving in more than three elements are 40, 39 and 36 percent, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum are Albania, Italy and Croatia, which all have fewer than 8 percent of their residents thriving in three or more elements.

One element in which Europe is particularly strong is financial well-being. As a region, Europe leads the world in this element, with 37 percent of Europeans thriving in financial well-being (versus 25 percent worldwide). The top seven countries in the world with the highest financial well-being are all located in northern or central Europe. Sweden has the world’s highest financial well-being, with 72 percent of residents thriving in this element. The other six European countries leading the world in this element are Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Iceland and Belgium.

When looking at the percentage of residents thriving, European results for the other well-being elements are as follows:

  • Purpose (22 percent thriving in Europe versus 18 percent worldwide)
  • Social (27 percent versus 23 percent)
  • Community (28 percent versus 26 percent)
  • Physical (22 percent versus 24 percent)
Well-Being in Europe

Well-Being in Europe

Physical well-being is the one element in which Europe is slightly behind global numbers. In Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Croatia, 15 percent or less of the population is thriving in this element. Even in France, with its universal healthcare system and high life expectancy, only 15 percent of residents are thriving in physical well-being.

The impact of the global recession is still being felt in the region, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, where unemployment is still high. Naturally, this will affect financial well-being, and we see low percentages of residents thriving in this element in countries such as Greece (11 percent), Serbia (12 percent), Bosnia-Herzegovina (13 percent) and Romania (15 percent).

The weak job market also impacts the purpose element of well-being, since this element centers on liking what you do each day. In Southern and Eastern European countries such as Albania, Croatia and Greece, where unemployment remains in the double digits, residents are much less likely to be thriving in this element (7 percent to 8 percent) than those in Western European nations such as Denmark (45 percent), Austria (36 percent) and Sweden (33 percent), where unemployment rates are much lower.

To learn more about well-being in Europe, you can replay our webinar “Measuring Matters: Insights on Europe from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index”. You can also download our State of Global Well-Being Report, which has details on Europe and much more.

Written by: Madison Agee

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December 02, 2014

Well-Being in Asia Pacific, the World’s Most Populous Region

Asia Pacific is a region characterized by a wide range of wealth and development, with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan on one end of the spectrum and countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan on the other. As uncovered by the recently released Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index™, the distribution of well-being is likewise quite broad. New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines all have more than 24 percent of their residents thriving in three or more elements of well-being, while Bhutan has only 8 percent and Afghanistan has only 1 percent.

The Global Well-Being Index is a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being. The most comprehensive measure of well-being in the world, the Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals to capture the important aspects of how people feel about and experience their daily lives, extending well beyond conventional measures of physical health or economic indicators. The five elements of well-being are purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

The Global Well-Being Index reveals that in three of the five well-being elements, the region is fairly close to the world averages in terms of the percentage of residents thriving in that element:

  • Financial (25 percent in both Asia Pacific and worldwide)
  • Community (25 percent in Asia Pacific versus 26 percent worldwide)
  • Physical (23 percent in Asia Pacific versus 24 percent worldwide)
Well-Being in APAC_Radar Chart

Well-Being in Asia Pacific

In the other two well-being elements, Asia Pacific is lagging behind global averages. In purpose well-being, only 13 percent of residents are thriving, compared with 18 percent worldwide. The Philippines, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand top the region in this element, whereas only 1 percent of Afghans are thriving in purpose. The Philippines has the region’s highest purpose well-being percentage, at 32 percent. Filipinos have historically reported high positivity related to employment, which may explain their strong showing in this element.

The other element in which Asia Pacific trails the global number is social well-being. In Asia Pacific, 19 percent are thriving, as opposed to 23 percent globally. Forty-three percent of Mongolians and 42 percent of Vietnamese report thriving in social well-being (more than double the regional percentage). Once again, on the opposite end of the range is Afghanistan, with less than half of 1 percent of residents thriving.

In a recent webinar, panelists from Gallup and Healthways provided attendees with an exclusive and in-depth analysis of the findings for Asia Pacific. They provided an overview of well-being within the region, including a more extensive look at select countries, such as China, India and Indonesia. The panelists explained the importance of measuring well-being and offered proposed solutions as to what countries within the region can do to improve well-being.

To learn more about well-being in Asia Pacific, you can replay our webinar “Measuring Matters: Insights on Asia Pacific from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index”. You can also download our State of Global Well-Being Report, which has details on Asia Pacific and much more.

Written by: Madison Agee

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