Did you know that 80 million adults in the United States are estimated to have limited or low health literacy? This finding, published by the National Library of Medicine, contributes to increasing challenges in managing chronic illnesses and self-care.
As the saying goes, we don’t know how much we don’t know.
Unfortunately, many adults overestimate their health IQ and continue to make detrimental decisions without even being aware of the issue. This preventable issue is not only a burden on the healthcare system but spills over into workplaces. Young recruits entering the workforce are not properly trained or educated on the skills needed to maintain their physical well-being or mental readiness to succeed long-term. This issue is especially prevalent in high-risk industries such as the military, healthcare, first responders, and construction. The issue only exacerbates with age as the cumulative effects of mismanaged self-care or neglecting personal wellness compile. Eventually, these issues go beyond impacting productivity and morale and become safety hazards.
This Health Literacy Month, we encourage human resource professionals, safety professionals, and employee wellness experts to help debunk three common myths we often see negatively impacting the well-being of workers supporting high-risk industries.
Severe caloric restriction (restricting caloric intake below the basal metabolic rate) and in more recent years, fasting, are commonly used tools for weight loss. While these methods will move the needle on the scale, the effects are typically short-term. Caloric restriction and fasting also have numerous significant drawbacks for professionals in physically demanding roles.
Other impairments brought on by fasting and calorie restriction include yo-yo dieting trends, disordered eating patterns and eating disorders, sleep disruption, reduced immunity, and hormonal dysfunction.
We recognize the need for workers to maintain a healthy weight. But there are better ways to do it. Educating workers on the risks of crash diets and connecting them to resources and programs that provide a framework for sustainable weight management practices can protect them from engaging in unhealthy weight loss practices.
Beliefs that downplay or underestimate the value of sleep are extremely harmful to employee health and wellness. This myth is often unintentionally propagated in workplaces by glorifying “hustle culture” and presenting sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. Many people have grown so accustomed to chronic sleep deprivation that they completely underestimate how much better they could perform and how much their internal health would improve with appropriate rest.
Sleep deprivation causes cognitive decline, reduced physical performance, and irritability in the short term. In the long term, it can cause hormonal imbalances, weight gain, increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, depression, heart attack, and stroke.
Fostering a workplace culture that values rest and recovery is one of the first steps in dispelling beliefs that adequate sleep is not essential. Education and sleep support resources can greatly accelerate the process of resting employees' mindsets around sleep.
The belief that one should push through physical discomfort is deeply ingrained in many high-risk industries. Pain is the body’s way of waving a red flag to indicate something is wrong. Mild pain and discomfort can often be remedied with cost-effective solutions such as correcting muscular imbalances, job rotation, or ergonomic solutions. When ignored, we set the stage for more costly injuries to arise.
Communicating with workers and actively listening to their feedback is also critical. Take comments or casual discomfort and chronic pain complaints seriously and connect workers to the resources needed to proactively mitigate these concerns.
Debunking the myth of “no pain, no gain” doesn’t imply that hard work should be avoided. Rather, it emphasizes the importance of early, cost-effective interventions. By identifying and addressing muscular imbalances and ergonomic issues before they escalate into injuries, workers can enjoy better long-term health and performance, ultimately benefiting themselves and their employers.
In conclusion, debunking these common health myths is not just about dispelling misconceptions but safeguarding the well-being of workers, especially in high-risk industries where physical and mental fitness are paramount. These myths, whether related to extreme dieting, undervaluing sleep, or pushing through pain, can have severe consequences, affecting the individual, workplace safety, and productivity.
As we observe Health Literacy Month, it's time for a collective shift in mindset. We encourage human resource professionals, safety experts, and employee wellness advocates to take proactive steps. Let's educate ourselves and our colleagues about the realities of health and well-being, debunk these myths, and prioritize long-term health and safety over quick fixes.
At SiteWell Solutions, we're committed to supporting workers in high-risk industries. We offer personalized solutions, resources, and programs to help you and your employees make informed decisions and take the right steps toward improved health and well-being.
Take action today and schedule a discovery call with SiteWell Solutions to explore how we can partner to create a healthier and safer workplace. Consider taking our Workforce Risk Assessment for a free Risk Factors and Interventions report. Together, we can promote a culture of well-being, enhance worker performance, and ensure safer, more productive workplaces for all. Your workers deserve it, and so does your business.
SiteWell Solutions is committed to supporting business and organizations with health, wellness and injury prevention services. A healthy workforce is proven to be more engaged, productive and happier. It is our mission to deliver these outcomes to every organization we serve. Our services include onsite and virtual corporate wellness programs, industrial athlete training, injury prevention services, chronic disease management, employee resilience support services and much more. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org today to find out how we can optimize your organization.
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