Workplace wellness program interest and barriers among workers with work-related permanent impairments

Publication type
Journal article
Sears JM, Edmonds AT, Hannon PA, Schulman BA, Fulton-Kehoe D
Date published
2022 Apr 01
Workplace Health & Safety
Open Access?

BACKGROUND: Nearly half of U.S. workers have access to workplace wellness programs (WWPs), 58% of workers with access participate. The aim of this study was to assess interest in WWP participation and identify reasons for lack of interest among workers with work-related permanent impairments-a population at elevated risk of adverse health outcomes. METHODS: Workers who returned to work after a work-related permanent impairment were interviewed 11 to 15 months after workers' compensation claim closure. Qualitative content analysis methods were used to code open-ended responses. FINDINGS: Of 560 respondents, 51.4% expressed interest in WWP participation. Numerous adverse health and economic characteristics were associated with WWP interest, for example, interest was expressed by 63.3% of workers reporting fair/poor health status versus 47.1% reporting good/excellent; 56.9% of workers reporting moderate/severe pain versus 41.4% reporting mild/no pain; 64.7% of workers without health insurance versus 50.1% with health insurance; 69.0% of workers reporting depression versus 47.2% without depression; 70.4% of workers reporting obesity versus 48.0% without obesity; and 63.2% of workers often worried about expenses versus 46.9% reporting sometimes/never worried. Specific participation barriers were described by 34.2% of the 272 workers who were not interested. CONCLUSIONS/APPLICATIONS TO PRACTICE: A majority of workers with work-related permanent impairments-particularly those with adverse health and economic characteristics-were interested in WWPs. Many workers who reported no interest cited participation barriers. Further research is needed to determine whether addressing such barriers would enhance equitable access. Those undertaking WWP planning, implementation, and outreach should ensure that WWPs are inclusive and serve workers with disabilities