Beware the Worried Well
The worried well is a collective term to describe those people who, though perfectly healthy, are particularly anxious about falling prey to some nasty ailment. They therefore seek medical help in order to protect and reassure themselves that they remain fit and well.
For organisations that offer health and well-being programmes, the worried well present both plus and negative considerations.
On the plus side, they are often at the front, leading the charge on offers such as discounted gym memberships, know your numbers campaigns and lifestyle education programmes. They are good role models; they are serious about their health and take nothing for granted.
On the negative side, the Worried Well can skew the picture. Organisations might be delighted that over 50% of their staff have taken up the offer of a health screen but this figure might represent mostly members of the worried well set. So although a 50% take up rate is impressive on the face of it, the offer is not reaching those members of staff for whom it is really intended.
Employees can be grouped into four categories depending on their orientation to their health. According to Oxford Health Plans (2002), there are Truly Healthies (32%), Realists (32%) and Deniers (17%). The Worried Well make up the remainder with 19%.
The success of a well-being programme should be judged on how many Realists and Deniers it attracts. The choice of programme and how it is communicated is critical to reaching these people and influencing their overall health profiles.
Dr. Bridget Juniper is an employee well-being consultant at Lockton Employee Benefits. She is also head of Work and Well-Being Ltd which specializes in the measurement of employee well-being. www.workandwellbeing.com