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Most Americans Don’t Prepare For Illness Or Injury That Puts Their Income At Risk

Few full- and part-time workers were aware of preventive measures that protect them from injury and illness, nor were they prepared for loss of salary due to layoff, injury, or illness, found a Yankelovich survey conducted for CIGNA that explored attitudes toward work.

Only about a third said they had actively prepared for being sidelined due to an injury or illness, even though nearly 9 out of 10 said they know there were steps they could take to protect themselves. When asked what can be done to prepare for the possibility of being out of work for an extended period of time, fewer than 2 in 10 (16 percent) saw trying to be healthier or staying well as a strategy.

Sixty-three percent of workers surveyed said they "live to work," compared to the 36 percent who "work to live." Among those people in the "live to work" category: 33 percent said their work gives them satisfaction; 18 percent love their job and would continue working even if they won the lottery; and 12 percent find their job brings structure and purpose to their life, the survey found. These responses were classified as "live to work."

From a "work to live" perspective, 15 percent of people surveyed said they work primarily for the paycheck; 8 percent would rather be doing something else but felt stuck due to the bad economy; 8 percent felt their job is just okay and work mainly for benefits like insurance; while 6 percent said they’d rather be retired but need to save more money.

The overall annual cost of poor health in the workplace is estimated to be $1.8 trillion, according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Even in this struggling economy, employers are investing in workplace wellness programs. For example, a recent Hewitt Associates survey indicates 65 percent of employers said they invest in long-term solutions to improve the overall health and productivity of their workforce and also reveals an emerging interest in absence management. Another study, by Watson Wyatt (now part of Towers Watson) and the National Business Group on Health reports that 72 percent of employers with at least 1,000 employees have enhanced their onsite offeringswith health coaching, stress management programs or employee assistance programs – or they plan to offer these types of programs in the next 12 months.

Only 12 percent of workers in the Yankelovich survey readily identified workplace wellness programs as a way to help them prepare for the possibility of an injury or illness keeping them out of work for more than just a few days. Instead, they focus on strategies such as saving more money as a financial cushion or purchasing new or additional disability insurance. Nine percent cited employee assistance programs.

The economic uncertainty of the past few years has forced many Americans to start thinking ahead and change their personal habits. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports Americans are saving more now than they did in the last 10 years. According to the Live to Work survey, of those who said they prepared for a possible layoff, 71 percent said they saved more money.

The Live to Work survey also asked people how successful they were in balancing their work and personal life. An impressive 92 percent said they’re successful in striking a healthy balance, and 71 percent said their employer does a good job in helping them chieve this balance. However, 64 percent said they would find it valuable to learn more about what they could do better to maintain a healthy balance.

Addresses: CIGNA, Two Liberty Place, 1601 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19192; (215) 761-111, www.cigna.com. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, LWW Business Offices, Two Commerce Square, 2001 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19103; (215) 521-8300, www.lww.com. Hewitt Associates, 100 Half Day Rd., Lincolnshire, IL 60069-3342; (847) 295-5000, www.hewittassociates.com. Towers Watson, 875 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022; www.towerwatson.com. National Business Group on Health, 50 F St. NW, Ste. 600, Washington DC 20001; (202) 628-9320, www.businessgrouphealth.org.


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