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High Stress and Negative Health Behaviors

A Five-Year Wellness Center Member Cohort Study

Clark, Matthew M. PhD; Jenkins, Sarah M. MS; Hagen, Philip T. MD; Riley, Beth A. MBA; Eriksen, Caleigh A. MS; Heath, Amy L. MA; Vickers Douglas, Kristin S. PhD; Werneburg, Brooke L. BA; Lopez-Jimenez, Francisco MD; Sood, Amit MD; Benzo, Roberto P. MD; Olsen, Kerry D. MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2016 - Volume 58 - Issue 9 - p 868–873
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000826

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the association between having a high stress level and health behaviors in employees of an academic medical center.

Methods: Beginning January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2013, an annual survey was completed by 676 worksite wellness members.

Results: Each year, about one-sixth of members had a high stress level, high stress individuals visited the wellness center less often, and most years there was a significant relationship (P < 0.05) between stress level and poor physical health behaviors (physical activity level and confidence, strength, climbing stairs), low mental health (quality of life, support, spiritual well-being and fatigue), poor nutritional habits (habits and confidence), and lower perceived overall health.

Conclusions: High stress is associated with negative health behavior, and future studies, therefore, should explore strategies to effectively engage high stress employees into comprehensive wellness programs.

Department of Psychiatry and Psychology (Drs Clark, Vickers Douglas); Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics, Department of Health Sciences Research (Ms Jenkins); Division of Preventive, Occupational, and Aerospace Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine (Ms Hagen); Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, Mayo Clinic, Rochester (Ms Riley, Ms Eriksen, Ms Heath, Ms Werneburg, Dr Olsen); StayWell, St. Paul (Ms Eriksen); Division of Cardiovascular Diseases (Dr Lopez-Jimenez); Division of General Internal Medicine (Dr Sood); Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine (Dr Benzo); and Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota (Dr Olsen).

Address correspondence to: Matthew M. Clark, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street S.W., Rochester, MN 55905 (

Authors Clark, Jenkins, Hagen, Riley, Eriksen, Heath, Vickers Douglas, Werneburg, Lopez-Jimenez, Sood, Benzo, and Olsen have no other relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Dr A. Sood is owner of the Global Center for Resiliency and Wellbeing. Dr R. Benzo is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH; R01 CA 163293 and R01 HL 94680).

All other authors have no conflicts of interest or financial disclosures.

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). The research presented in this article is that of the authors and does not reflect the official policy of the NIH nor did the NIH manage the study design; collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; writing of the report; or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. No financial disclosures or conflicts of interest were reported by the remaining authors of this paper.

Copyright © 2016 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine