Who Are the Least Healthy Employees in America?

Hint: They are the very people whose job is to keep you healthy.

A new study shows that hospital employees are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma, obesity, and depression compared to US employees in other industries. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Well, this is unexpected. It turns out hospital employees are less healthy than the US workforce at large.

A study conducted by Truven Health Analytics found that 44 percent of the general workforce is healthy, compared with 35 percent of health system workers. Hospital employees are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma, obesity, and depression, and 5 percent are more likely to be hospitalized than US employees in other industries.

The differences in the findings, which included information from 350,000 hospital employees and 12 million workers from other industries, were stark. In particular, hospital employees were 46 percent more likely to be obese. Hospital employees are also less likely to receive common preventive services, such as mammograms and colorectal cancer screenings.

It turns out that the very people who work to keep the general population healthy are sacrificing their own health as a result, the authors wrote. “The very nature of many hospital workers is to care for others, sometimes at the expense of themselves. In addition, hospital workers may feel they possess the knowledge needed to improve their own health and don’t require outside assistance.”

The results aren’t unlike other studies that have found higher rates of alcoholism and unhappiness among doctors. A study published in February found that the rate of alcohol abuse among US surgeons—15 percent—is almost double that of the general public. Another study found that the field of oncology has a high burnout rate due to the daily grief those professionals experience dealing with cancer patients and their families.

The authors recommend that hospitals put forth better efforts to keep their own employees healthy, including encouraging them to use the services available at the very hospitals that employ them.

The full study is available through Truven Health Analytics’ website.