Canadian employees significantly underestimate their personal health risks, which underscores the need for targeted wellness programs in the workplace, according to a study.

A 2013 Medisys Corporate Health LP survey of Canadian employees examined the accuracy of self-reported cardiovascular risk factors by comparing the answers of individual respondents with their medical test results in three areas: cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. The results of the survey show that employees underestimate their personal health risks by significant amounts.

Almost half of respondents had at least one previously unknown crucial cardiovascular risk factor. Some of the employees in this subset were under the age of 35 (27%).

Also, 37% of survey participants were found to have high cholesterol, 21% had high blood pressure, and 10% had glucose levels outside of Health Canada’s recommended norms.

Additionally, the survey, which polled 893 employees, reveals that, when compared with medical test results, self-reported cholesterol risk was underestimated by an astounding 250%, hypertension risk by 58% and diabetes risk by 76%.

“The results of this study clearly highlight the need for more education and targeted wellness initiatives to create a culture of prevention, early diagnosis and wellness,” says Randy McCaig, author of the study and director of strategy and business development at Medisys.

To maximize the return on investment in their wellness programs, employers should bring in medical staff to test employees; the confidential results should then be forwarded to the company’s management, McCaig explains. This strategy would provide employers with accurate baseline measurements of their workers’ health profiles.

“From there, wellness programs can be created that are relevant, engaging and based on the needs of employees,” McCaig says.

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