Company wellness programs have progressed far beyond lunchtime walks and in-office flu shots. Today, businesses understand the interconnectedness of physical, mental and financial health to a productive and satisfied workforce. That is why it is imperative that an effective employee assistance program includes a holistic approach that addresses all three areas of health.
Physical & Mental Health
The toll poor mental health can have on an individual’s physical well-being is well documented. Depression and burnout can lead to fatigue, loss of appetite, increased cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure, among other many other issues. In fact, depression has been linked to a 50% increase in the risk of dying of cancer and a 67% increase in the risk of dying from heart disease.
But is the opposite true—can poor physical health affect your mental health? In short: Absolutely.
Something as simple as the amount of sleep you get each night can affect your brain function as you age. A 10-year study by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing found that “people who had higher levels of physical activity and also slept between six and eight hours per night had better cognitive function as they aged.” Conversely, even among highly active individuals in their 50s and 60s, those who slept less than six hours each night actually decreased any benefits their physical activity had on their cognitive levels.
Moreover, a study by the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey reported that chronic health issues eroded one’s mental health. Depression, for example, is found to be linked to some chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and asthma. And a UK study of middle-aged individuals found that those who had more than one adverse physical health condition were more likely to experience poor mental health.
Health shocks—such as injuries sustained through accidents—can also worsen mental health. One study found that ICU hospitalized patients used more medications for their mental health than they did prior to hospitalization and more than the general population at large.
Financial & Mental Health
Poor financial well-being can also take a toll on one’s mental health. Only one-third of Americans are financially healthy—meaning they can meet their financial obligations, they are saving for long-term goals and spend wisely. And it doesn’t matter what income bracket one falls in either: those who make more money do not necessarily experience less financial stress. According to the American Psychological Association, 72% of adults said they felt stressed about money some of the time, while 26% felt stressed about money all or most of the time.
Because money concerns can be a major stressor, it can lead to sleeplessness, anxiety, extreme weight gain or loss, and fatigue, greatly affecting one’s mental health. And according to the American Psychological Association, one in five people who are stressed about finances put off going to the doctor, which can adversely affect their physical, and subsequently, mental health.
The interconnectedness between the financial, the physical, and the emotional underscores the need for companies to develop a comprehensive wellness program that addresses all three through workshops, trainings, and expert resources. If you as a business leader suspect your team members are under stress due to physical or financial challenges, make sure you understand the resources available to them and point them in the right direction.