One Question Regarding Stress Can Help Tailor Wellness Programs

September 7, 2011 ( – According to a study published by the Mayo Clinic, one simple question asking employees to rate their current stress level may help identify individuals who could benefit from wellness programs to reduce stress and improve resiliency and overall health.  

Mayo Clinic researchers surveyed 13,198 employees who joined a Mayo Clinic employee wellness center when it opened in 2008. Employees rated their stress levels on a scale of 0 (as bad as it can be) to 10 (as good as it can be) and answered questions about quality of life, fatigue, exercise, diet, smoking. and health problems.  

High stress levels (0 to 3) were reported by 2,147 employees. When compared to other employees, high-stress employees reported a lower quality of life, poorer health, less support, and more fatigue. They also were more likely to have high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol, and to be overweight. The high-stress group had less confidence than their non-stressed peers in their ability to make changes to improve their overall health. 

The study showed the biggest differences between stressed and non-stressed respondents were in fatigue levels after a regular night’s sleep and in current quality of life. 

So, instead of expecting tired, stressed participants to run off pounds on the treadmill, Matthew Clark, Ph.D., a Clinical Psychologist at Mayo Clinic suggests organizations could offer them yoga, tai chi, meditation, stress management classes, or sessions with a personal wellness coach that would help them reach overall wellness goals. 

“There is no one best approach to manage stress. We are all unique,” said Clark. “But by bolstering resiliency, employees may be able to successfully make lifestyle changes and achieve wellness." 

The Mayo Clinic study did not examine any correlations between work performance and stress levels. Dr. Clark cautions about making any assumptions on who might be experiencing stress that’s “as bad as it can be.” 

“Stellar employees can be stressed about meeting exceedingly high personal expectations,” he said. They may be top performers, but their quality of life is diminished. “Surveys have shown that stress is a common workplace problem,” he added. “Our research acknowledges that stress affects many aspects of health, and it’s possible to easily identify who might benefit from resiliency training.”