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Two-year impact of lifestyle changes on workplace productivity loss in the Heart of New Ulm Project
  1. Jeffrey J VanWormer1,
  2. Jackie L Boucher2,
  3. Abbey C Sidebottom3
  1. 1Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Marshfield, Wisconsin, USA
  2. 2Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  3. 3Division of Applied Research, Allina Health, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jeffrey J VanWormer, Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, 1000 North Oak Ave, Marshfield, WI 54449, USA; vanwormer.jeffrey{at}


Objective Unhealthy lifestyles have been associated with lower workplace productivity and are the main targets of worksite wellness programmes. The degree to which workplace productivity increases over time in response to changes in lifestyle habits, however, remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between 2-year changes in key lifestyle risk factors and workplace productivity loss.

Method A retrospective cohort of 1273 employed adults in 2009 and 2011 was studied from the Heart of New Ulm Project. The outcome was overall workplace productivity loss in 2011. Predictors included 2-year changes in smoking, alcohol use, fruit/vegetable consumption and physical activity, as well as an optimal lifestyle score based on a composite of these four factors.

Results The adjusted model indicated that participants who continued to smoke over 2 years had significantly greater overall workplace productivity loss compared to those who remained non-smokers during the same timeframe (9.8% vs 2.5% productivity loss, p=0.031). Lifestyle improvements, however, were not associated with a reduction in workplace productivity loss.

Conclusions Employed adults in this cohort who quit smoking, moderated alcohol use, increased fruit/vegetable consumption, or increased physical activity over 2 years did not have less productivity loss compared to those whose lifestyle factors remained stable. In workforces where productivity is already high and/or lifestyle factors are generally healthy, further lifestyle improvements may have limited impact on employee productivity. Larger experimental studies in more diverse regions are needed to help guide employers’ investments in lifestyle-oriented worksite wellness programmes.

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