The wellness year in review: the top 8 trends (Part 2)

Trend #5 – Obesity is a growing workplace concern

Whilst we’re reluctant to admit it – we’re becoming an obese nation.Approximately two-thirds of Australian adults & a quarter of children are overweight or obese. This infographic shows just how quickly obesity is increasing in Australia.

This has a massive flow-on to the workplace. Overweight or obese employees are more likely to have increased health risks, short-term disability, musculoskeletal disorders, injury & illness incidence, severity & cost, & reduced productivity.1,2 Therefore, workplaces have a vested interest in addressing this growing public health issue.

Trend #6 – Mental wellbeing (finally) rears its head

Nearly half of Australian senior managers believe none of their workers will experience a mental health problem at work.3 This is despite one in five Australians experiencing a mental illness every year, & one in two in their lifetime.4 Hence, for an organisation of 1000 employees, you would expect that approximately 200 employees will be impacted by a mental illness each year.

Depression is currently the leading cause of non-fatal disability in Australia.On average, every full-time employee with untreated depression costs an organisation $9665 per year in lost productivity.4

There is also growing concern at the increased rates of mental health issues amongst fly-in-fly-out workers & their families.5 With these eyebrow raising stats, employers are waking up to the importance of investing in the mental wellbeing of their staff.  Read more.

Trend #7 – Putting more ‘H’ in OHS

Whilst we still have a way to go, in line the World Health Organisation’s Healthy Workplace Model we’re seeing more Australian workplaces adopt an integrated approach to health, safety & wellness management. This is reaping benefits for both employees & the organisation.

This is also reflected in the increasing number of jobs now being advertised with a broadened ‘Health, Safety & Wellbeing Manager’ title or similar.

Moving forward, this integrated approach will be critical in addressing the health & wellness challenges facing Australian workplaces, including managing an ageing workforce & the increasing prevalence of lifestyle-related chronic disease (see Trend #5).

Ultimately, the fundamental goals of the two disciplines are the same (ie ensuring workers remain healthy & safe), & are therefore mutually reinforcing. As U.K. workplace health expert Dame Carol Black so rightly puts it, it’s hard to be safe worker if you’re not a healthy worker.

For further information on integrating health, safety & wellness in the workplace, click here.

Trend #8 – Wellness Gets Social

There’s no doubt that social media is taking the wellness world by storm.

Whether it be Facebook, Yammer, Twitter, Youtube, Linkedin or Instagram (or the growing list of others), there’s a social tool to boost engagement in your wellness program, or to simply keep you up to date with what’s happening in the wellness world.

Whether you’re a fan or not, social networking is certainly not going anywhere! A couple of interesting stats:

  • 54% of Australians have a Facebook account, with 40% of users over 35.
  • 1 in 5 minutes spent online are spent on a social network
  • 86% of internet users visited a social network site in the last month.

A recent international survey by Towers Watson (2012) showed that social media tools were being used by 19% of companies for wellness delivery — up from 14% in 2011. This figure is expected to rise to 36% in 2013.

Given the social nature of wellness programs, the rapid adoption of social media as a cost -effective delivery tool is unsurprising.

When companies do deploy social networking tools, they are often surprised that their employees are well ahead of them in the adoption of such media.

So, what are you waiting for? Happy tweeting, posting & pinning!


  1. Colagiuri, S. et al (2010) MJA, 192(5): 260-264;
  2. Australian Safety & Compensation Council (2008) ‘Overweight & Obesity: Implications for Workplace Health & Safety & Workers Compensation’
  3. Beyond Blue,
  4. Hilton, M et al (2008) The Prevalence of Psychological Distress in Employees & Associated Occupational Risk Factors, J OccEnv Med, 50(7):746-57.
  5. Fly-in Fly-Out Workers Depressed, cited in ABC News 21st August 2012, see
  6. Social Bakers, see
  7. Social Media in Australia (2011), see
  8. Buck Consultants (2010) Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion & Workplace Wellness Strategies