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Physical health relates to complete physical (bodily), mental, and social well being.  Prior to medical advancements, it was defined simply as the absence of disease or infirmity.  Our definition today is more holistic. In fact, the English word health translates to ‘whole’, and means soundness and being well.

Physical wellness is being promoted more than ever by large and small companies, due to the correlation between health and decreased workplace absence.  Research has shown links between nutrition and exercise and increased workplace productivity.  Companies have responded by offering healthy food options in vending machines as well as incentives for spending time in workplace fitness gyms.  Health related information is more frequently provided on internet websites, along with pamphlets, posters and nutrition education software.

Back Problems and Physical Health

Back problems are the biggest physical health reason for long term absences; 12.5 of all sick days are taken due to back pain.  Other musculoskeletal conditions are also responsible.  It is estimated that one third of the European workforce suffer from low back pain.  Back pain regularly affects 9.6 million people in Britain. Whereas chronic back pain lasts more than 12 weeks, recurrent back pain indicates numerous episodes of pain that are six months or less.

Occupations which have more physical strain and poor posture are responsible for the most back pain, including fishing, agriculture, construction and health & social care.  The best treatment for this is early intervention, prevention and rehabilitation.  Managed return to work meetings with possible short term job design adjustments can increase the likelihood of an earlier return rate.

Other Physical Health Related Absences

Minor illnesses such as colds, stomach ailments and migraines are the largest cause of short term absences.  Other chronic conditions can include skin ailments, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Some of the best ways companies are improving the health of their employees is by focusing on improving their working environments and offering incentives for healthy living.  Companies are also designing cafeterias with nutritional options and putting plans in place to decrease stress.  Information is being provided more frequently on the relationship between alcohol, nicotine and stress, and stricter anti-harassment and bullying policies are being implemented.

Physical health is essential to productivity and reducing workplace absence.  While some sickness absences cannot be avoided, there is still much room to improve attendance rates in the UK.