NIOSH Encourages Worker Well-Being ResearchPosted on by
NIOSH continues to seek new ways to promote worker well-being research through programs and new initiatives, including the Total Worker Health® and Healthy Work Design and Well-being cross-sector programs. Total Worker Health (TWH) is a holistic approach to worker well-being. By acknowledging work-related risk factors that can impact health, the TWH approach seeks to improve the well-being of the American workforce, protecting safety and enhancing health and productivity. The newest NIOSH cross-sector program, Healthy Work Design and Well-Being (HWD) also focuses on how work affects overall health and well-being, including physical, psychological, social, and economic aspects of an individual’s life.
To encourage further research and discussion on worker well-being, NIOSH acquired access to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index and invited CDC/NIOSH researchers to use the database to conduct research. Since then, there have been 5 new publications in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, Social Science & Medicine, Annals of Epidemiology, and Preventive Medicine Reports. The articles include collaborations with the University of Illinois Chicago, City University New York, and Stanford University. Research topics include cardiovascular disease risk, supportive management, and job insecurity. While they might differ in specifics, all these topics get at the concept of how to design healthier jobs and improve worker well-being across industries. Four of the papers were also featured through Gallup blogs, with links provided below.
Toni Alterman, Rebecca Tsai, J Ju, Kevin Kelly, published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Special Issue: Using Total Worker Health to Advance Worker Health and Safety in 2019
The American Heart Association defined ideal cardiovascular health by the following 7 factors: abstinence from smoking within the past year, ideal body mass index (BMI), physically active, healthy diet, ideal fasting glucose, ideal total cholesterol, and ideal blood pressure. Having ideal levels in all seven components referred to as Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) can increase life span and reduce healthcare costs. We examined whether employee’s reports that their supervisor did not create an open and trusting environment was associated with the LS7 risk factors in a sample of more than 400,000 workers from the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. Twenty-one percent of workers reported that their supervisor did not create an open and trusting environment. Lack of trust was associated with increased adjusted odds of having many of the LS7 CVD risk factors. Among those workers whose supervisor created a mistrustful environment, the odds ratios were greatest (>20%) for having four or more of the LS7 CVD risk factors. These results reinforce the notion that supervisor trust and openness is essential to a comprehensive approach to worker safety and health. Find the Gallup blog here.
Abay Asfaw and Chia-Chia Chang, published in Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health in 2019
This study used data from the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index (2008–2014) to examine the association between employee perceived job insecurity and employee engagement, as well as any potential impact that supervisor support may have on the relationship. The data revealed that the odds of job-insecure employees to be engaged at work was 37% lower than the odds of job secure employees, controlling for socio-demographic factors. We also found that supervisor support increased the engagement of job insecure employees by 13%. This is the first study that used nationally representative data to examine the role of supervisor support in mitigating the negative impact of job insecurity on engagement. Find the Gallup blog here.
Kaori Fujishiro and Catherine Heaney, published in Social Science & Medicine in 2017
Being able to use one’s skills and perform at one’s best (i.e., skill utilization) has been recognized as a positive aspect of work associated with job satisfaction. This study examined the relationship between skill utilization and health, and healthy behavior as an explanation for the relationship. The results showed that employees who reported high levels of skill utilization at work were less likely to report poor general health, hypertension, and high cholesterol. These associations were explained by physical activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables. High skill utilization at work may help adults to acquire and maintain healthy behaviors. Find the Gallup blog here.
Candice Y Johnson, Carissa M Rocheleau, Christina C Lawson, Barbara Grajewski, Penelope P Howards, published in the Annals of Epidemiology in 2017
In the 1800s, scientists noticed that workers are generally healthier than non-workers because people in poor health tend to leave the workforce. This observation is called the healthy worker effect. In today’s workforce, health is not the only reason for leaving the workforce; for young women, childcare is an important reason. Using the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, we found that the healthy worker effect exists for men, but less so for women who have children at home. The more children women had in the home, the less health influenced workforce participation and the less workers and non-workers differed in health. Epidemiologists should therefore expect study results for men and women to differ if the healthy worker effect is not accounted for in the analysis.
Emily Stiehl, Nkenge H. Jones-Jack, Sherry Baron, and Naoko Muramatsu, published in Preventive Medicine Reports in 2018
This research suggests that dimensions of well-being vary across broad job categories for U.S. workers. For instance, career well-being (liking what you do and being motivated to achieve your goals) showed the greatest variability across job categories, with high levels among professionals, managers, business owners, and farming/fishing workers, and lower levels among clerical/office, service, manufacturing, and transportation workers. More research is needed to explore these differences, and to understand how well-being varies for specific occupations in each job category. Understanding differences across job categories can generate novel, targeted workplace interventions for improving employees’ well-being. Find the Gallup blog here.
Based on these publications, it is clear that work design is a big part of worker well-being. How would you design your job to make it better for your well-being?
For more information on Total Worker Health visit the website.
Toni Alterman, PhD, is a Senior Epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.
Abay Asfaw, PhD, is an Economist in the Economic Research and Support Office (ERSO) of NIOSH.
Chia-Chia Chang, MPH, MBA, is a Public Health Analyst in the NIOSH Office for Total Worker Health®.
Kaori Fujishiro, PhD, is a Senior Research Epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.
Candice Johnson, PhD, is an Epidemiologist in the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.
Sarah Mitchell, MPH, is an ORISE Fellow in the NIOSH Communications Office.
Emily Stiehl, PhD, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government. Mention of a commercial enterprise does not imply that the Government considers the enterprise’s work product to be superior to others’ products.
- Alterman T, Tsai Rebecca, Ju J, Kelley KM. (2019) Trust in the work environment and cardiovascular disease risk: Findings from the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Special Issue: Using Total Worker Health to Advance Worker Health and Safety. 16(2):230:1-15. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph16020230
- Asfaw, Abay & Chang, Chia-Chia. (2019) The association between job insecurity and engagement of employees at work, Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, DOI: 10.1080/15555240.2019.1600409
- Fujishiro, K., & Heaney, C. A. (2017) “Doing what I do best”: The association between skill utilization and employee health with healthy behavior as a mediator. Social Science & Medicine, 175, 235-243.
- Johnson C.Y., Rocheleau, C.M., Lawson, C. C., Grajewski, B., & Howards, P.P. (2017) Factors affecting workforce participation and healthy worker biases in U.S. women and men. Annals of Epidemiology, 27:558-562. DOI: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2017.08.017
- Stiehl E, Jones-Jack NH, Baron S, Muramatsu N. (2019) Worker well-being in the United States: Finding variation across job categories. Prev Med Rep, 13:5-10. Available online: 18-OCT-2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.10.006