Public Release: 

Employees of medical centers report high stress and negative health behaviors

Mayo Clinic

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Several national surveys have found that approximately 15 to 20 percent of adults in the U.S. will report high levels of stress. A new study by Mayo Clinic researchers identified stress and burnout as a major problem employees face within the medical industry, leading to negative health behaviors. With rising stress levels in the workplace for employees, many companies are looking to integrate, engage and enroll employees into wellness programs.

"It's important to teach individuals to monitor their stress levels over time and practice effective, ongoing stress-reduction strategies, such as getting involved in wellness programs, this will in-turn help health care employees live a happy and health life," says Matthew Clark, Ph.D., lead author of the study and resiliency expert at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.

The study, which is published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, measured stress and health behaviors (exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc.) by a series of five annual surveys administered to 676 participants who are employees at Mayo Clinic and have access to a wellness center. A significant relationship was found between the stress levels of an employee and four domains of quality of life: poor physical health, low mental health, poor nutritional habits and lower perceived overall health. Unfortunately, according to the study, employees who reported high stress levels and perceived poor quality of life also reported the lowest usage of wellness programs.

According to Dr. Clark, "Increasing the awareness of wellness centers and programs in academic medical environments will increase the quality of life of employees and lead to less physician and staff burnout."

Many companies are taking note of burnout and job strain in their staff and have created wellness centers, offer stress reduction programs, provide wellness coaching and healthy sleep programs for their employees in an effort to reduce stress, job strain and burnout. Muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility exercises are also beneficial to overall quality of life, Dr. Clark writes.

He adds, "We are beginning to encourage employees to monitor their stress levels and to engage in daily resiliency practices, such as exercise, time with family and friends, meditation or gratitude journaling, to help reduce their stress levels and improve their quality of life."

Given the significance of stress in the workplace, the researchers note that exploring ways to effectively engage employees who have high levels of stress into wellness programs warrants further investigation.

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Other authors of this study include:

  • Sarah Jenkins, Mayo Clinic
  • Philip Hagen, M.D., Mayo Clinic
  • Beth Riley, Mayo Clinic
  • Carleigh Erikson, StayWell
  • Amy Heath, Mayo Clinic
  • Kristin Vickers Douglas, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic
  • Brooke Werneberg, Mayo Clinic
  • Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, M.D., Mayo Clinic
  • Amit Sood, M.D., Mayo Clinic
  • Roberto Benzo, M.D., Mayo Clinic
  • Kerry Olsen, M.D., Mayo Clinic

This research was supported in part by grants to Dr. Benzo from the National Institutes of Health (NIH; R01 CA 163293 and R01 HL 94680).

About Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to medical research and education, and providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/about-mayo-clinic or http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/.

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