Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine says workers who travel extensively may be more prone to chronic health problems, which can exacerbate injuries and lengthen recovery periods.
Researchers examined data on more than 13,000 employees of a large multinational company in 2007. They found in particular that incidents of obesity and self-rated poor health were associated with high rates of business travel.
Using a large sample of employed individuals undergoing wellness physical examinations, the researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis of associations between the extent of business travel and several measures of health, including self-rated health, obesity, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and fasting blood sugar. The employees filled out questionnaires before undergoing the routine screening physical exams.
Most of the traveling -- 81 percent -- was done via personal automobile and the majority of the trips were shorter than 250 miles from the point of departure. The researchers compared the results of employees classified as averaging one to six nights of travel per month, seven to 13 days, 14 to 20 days, 21 or more days, and nontravelers.
"We found that health outcomes were consistently worse for those not traveling and those traveling the most," the authors said.
The results showed non-travelers and those who traveled extensively were more likely to report poor or fair health on the questionnaires, with the odds ratios increasing with increased travel. The odds ratios for obesity also increased with extended travel schedules. Frequent travelers and non-travelers also had the highest diastolic blood pressure and lowest high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.
The authors said the results for non-travelers were not too surprising, given previous research. Among the traveling employees, the authors said that previous research suggests it is likely to be associated with the consumption of higher calorie meals and more sedentary behaviors.
"Analyses of U.S. Department of Agriculture food consumption surveys show that food eaten away from home contains more calories per serving, is higher in total fat and saturated fat per calorie, and contains less dietary fiber than meals prepared at home," the study states.
The authors also said that increased business travel may increase job strain. "Job strain has been shown to be significantly associated with cardiovascular disease risk factors such as higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure and cholesterol."
Increased psychological stress may also be associated with frequent travel.
Educating traveling employees about the association between business travel and health is among the recommendations from the authors. They also suggest employers take steps to encourage better diets and increased activity.
"If the company reimburses employees for meals while traveling, reimbursement rates could be tied to dietary quality," the report says. "A ?stick' approach might be to reimburse high-energy density food meals at a below cost rate, while a ?carrot' approach might be to reimburse healthy meals at an above cost rate."
The authors also suggest partnering with hotel chains that have exercise rooms available, providing financial incentives for employees to exercise while traveling, and conducting stress management classes and workshops.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
June 6, 2011
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