Workplace intervention involving estimating body age associated with improved health outcomes

1. A workplace intervention that determined employees’ body age was found to decrease body age score, reduce smoking habits, lower risk factors for chronic disease, and lower rates for metabolic syndrome.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

As life expectancy in western countries continues to rise, the legislated retirement age is also expected to increase. However, inactive lifestyles contributing to obesity and other health conditions are barriers to a robust and healthy aging workforce. The workplace is a potential setting for a public health intervention, since employees would be expected to share similar lifestyles, socioeconomic status, and other social determinants of health. An intervention growing in popularity is a health risk assessment involving body-age estimates: Essentially, body-age is a combination of all risk factors to determine an individual’s susceptibility to poor health and disease. It is a simple number to interpret: For optimal health, one’s body age should be equal to or lower than one’s actual age. The current retrospective study from Denmark evaluated the effectiveness of a body-age based intervention (BAI) in the workplace. The BAI involved a health screening within working hours, a report with body-age score and what factors contributed to it, and a motivational interview (MI) to promote health behaviour changes. The follow-up was variable, with a median of 1.3 years and interquartile range of 1.0-2.1 years. At the follow-up, the health outcomes measured were changes in body age score, smoking habits, single risk factors, and metabolic syndrome. In total, 90 companies participated, with 3,843 employees undergoing both the BAI and the follow-up. The study found that body age decreased, with a drop of 0.6 years (95% CI -0.7 to -0.5) for men and 0.7 years (95% CI -0.8 to -0.5) for women (P < 0.001). As well, 42% of smokers had quit smoking by the follow-up and 19% had reduced their smoking, although 21% increased smoking and 18% had no change. For single risk factors, there was higher HDL (0.02 mmol/l) and lower LDL (-0.06 mmol/l) in women. In men and women, there were no changes in glucose concentration or blood pressure, but lower BMI, weight, body fat percent, and waist circumference. Lastly, the number of employees with metabolic syndrome decreased from 16.8% to 14.5%. Overall, this study demonstrates how a BAI and MI can be effectively implemented in the workplace, with impacts on numerous areas of health for both the individual employee and for the aging workforce.

Click to read the study in PlosONE

Image: PD

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