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Tuesday 7 March 2017

Young people have the unhealthiest lifestyle and are facing challenges in the workplace

Employees aged 35 years old and under have the most financial concerns and are the least physically active, according to data from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW). These same employees, many of whom entered the workforce following the recent global financial crisis, already suffer from social mobility challenges and tough economic conditions*, and now we are seeing the considerable impact this has on individuals’ health and wellbeing. BHW data shows that employees under 35 years old are the least physically active in the workforce, have a high proportion of smokers** and eat the least fruit and vegetables each day. 

BHW data shows that almost 35% of 26-30 year old employees are physically inactive, completing less than 150 minutes of exercise a week, and on top of this nearly 14% of this age group smoke too. Comparatively, the same data shows that older employees have healthier habits, with 22.5% of 56-60 year olds being physically inactive and only a small proportion (6.1%) smoking. BHW surveys more than 34,000 workers across all UK industries and was developed in partnership with VitalityHealth, Mercer, the University of Cambridge, and RAND Europe. 

Data from BHW shows that high stress levels can have major impacts on employee productivity at work***, which in turn has cost implications for the employer. The generation that joined the workforce during the aftermath of the financial crisis is financially disadvantaged, with increased work pressures and stagnant wages* and according to BHW data, on average employees aged 35 or under report the highest levels of financial concerns. This same age group also loses up to 30 days at work due to absence and underperformance due to ill-health, also known as ‘presenteeism’. This translates to workers losing more than an entire working month of productive time annually, whilst in comparison, employees aged between 56 and 60 reported up to 13% less financial concerns, losing on average of just 19.6 days annually. 

Shaun Subel, Director of Strategy at VitalityHealth, said: “When examining the UK’s productivity challenge we have seen that demographic factors such as age and income play a key role, with the younger generation and lower earners being particularly susceptible to high levels of absence and presenteeism. While young people are naturally less affected by clinical and chronic health conditions, our results show that in terms of lifestyle health they are in fact worse off than their older counterparts – they get less exercise, are less likely to eat healthily and are more likely to smoke, suggesting that people become more health-conscious in their behaviour as they age. In parallel, the younger generation suffers more from financial concerns, and is shown to be significantly less engaged in work, pointing to the effect of the financial crisis in damaging job prospects and wage progression for this ‘lost generation’ of workers.” 

“Ill-health, unhealthy lifestyles and financial stress are all factors associated with employees losing productive time at work,” said Chris Bailey, Partner at Mercer. “Employees 35 years old and under have become part of a ‘lost generation’, suffering both health wise and financially as a result of the recession. It is important to keep this ‘lost generation’ healthy and active as we know that they will be working longer than generations before them. Employers recognise that working for prolonged periods with ill-health will significantly affect employee stress and productivity levels over time. These employees are the future of work and companies should invest in them through holistic wellbeing programmes which include physical and mental health, financial wellbeing and other associated areas such as social interaction and personal development. It’s important to take a view of what makes a person truly ‘well’ and able to be as productive as possible over a sustained period.”


Notes to editors:

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace is the UK’s most comprehensive workplace wellness study. Since inception in 2013, 400 organisations and 100,000 employees have taken part in the study, across a wide range of industries, regions and demographic groups. Registrations for the 2017 study are open until 17 March 2017. To find out more and register your organisation visit:

The Britain's Healthiest Workplace research process took place between February and August 2016. It looked at a number of lifestyle, mental wellbeing, clinical risk and productivity factors amongst 34,128 employees, together with a broad view of leadership and cultural dimensions and organisational policies, practices and facilities that could directly impact on employee health, across 160 companies. Results based on UK workforce as reported by each company surveyed.

*State of the nation 2016: social mobility in Great Britain by the Social Mobility Commission

**Both e-cigarettes and vapes are included within Britain’s Healthiest Workplace dataset

***Employees in overstressed, inactive and unproductive industries lose 27 days of productive time each year