Academic journal article The ICHPER-SD Journal of Research in Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport & Dance

Correlations among Stress, Physical Activity and Nutrition: School Employee Health Behavior

Academic journal article The ICHPER-SD Journal of Research in Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport & Dance

Correlations among Stress, Physical Activity and Nutrition: School Employee Health Behavior

Article excerpt

Abstract

Employee health promotion programs increase work productivity and effectively reduce employer costs related to health care and absenteeism, and enhance worker productivity. Components of an effective worksite health program include stress management, exercise and nutrition and/or weight management classes or counseling. Few studies have documented correlates of health behaviors in school-based employees. A multi-component survey was used to examine relationships among stress, physical activity and specific food choices among employees in a southeastern Louisiana school district. Significant differences were found in coping styles by gender and employee status. Findings also indicated that employees who selected healthful foods were more likely to use task-oriented coping, considered an effective coping style. Further those employees who engaged in vigorous physical activity on a regular basis reported less perceived stress as well as more effective coping strategies. Since these behaviors appear to be interrelated, those conducting health promotion programs may consider a multi-dimensional approach when planning programs for employees. Intervention studies in a school-based population are needed to examine specific effects of different coping styles and healthy behaviors on employee productivity.

Keywords: coping, worksite health promotion

Introduction

Given the current economic conditions, inclusion of health promotion programs is becoming a more important component of worksite health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that employers, on average, spend $1,685 per employee per year for lost productivity costs related to health conditions or $225.8 billion in the U.S. annually (Stewart, Ricci, Chee, & Morganstein, 2003). Research further indicates that health promotion programs at worksites can result in a 25% reduction in costs associated with absenteeism, health care and disability workers' compensation (Camethon et al., 2009; Chapman, 2005). Such programs are among the most useful non-medical strategies to improve and maintain the health of employees while controlling health care costs (Louis, Schultz, McDonald, Champagne, & Edington, 2006). Worksite health programs have also been found to improve dietary and physical activity behaviors (Anderson et al., 2009) both of which are imperative to employees' health.

Worksite health promotion programs in school settings are among the eight interrelated components of the Coordinated School Health Program, as recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Allensworth & Kolbe, 1987). Under this component, teachers and non-teaching staff have the opportunity to participate in health assessments, education and health-related fitness activities. According to the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2006, about two-thirds of states provided support to school districts for activities and services that promote healthy lifestyles in faculty and staff (Eaton, Marx, & Bowie, 2007). In addition, Healthy People 2020 maintains the need to provide comprehensive health promotion programs at the worksite (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 2010). As noted in Healthy People 2020 several components of an effective worksite health program include stress management, employerbased exercise facilities, and nutrition/weight management classes or counseling.

Many school-based worksite programs include stress management strategies for staff. Stress is an inevitable part of a school employee's life (Stem & Cutler, 2002) and the physiological response may lead to teacher attrition, absenteeism and other disorders such as anxiety and depression (Austin, Shah, & Muncher, 2005; Hammond & Onikama, 1997). As such, its effects can be costly to the employer. Programs that help employees manage their stress have been shown to reduce anxiety, fatigue, depression and teacher burnout (Anderson, Levinson, Barker, & Kiewra, 1999). …

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