WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than four in 10 U.S. workers diagnosed with heart problems have trouble concentrating at work due to physical challenges, a significantly higher rate than among workers without heart problems. Those whose heart problems were diagnosed more than a year ago are also more likely than their peers both with and without heart problems to report struggling with depression or anxiety on the job.
The findings come from a Gallup Panel survey conducted from 2014 to 2016 as part of an ongoing partnership between Gallup and Healthways to measure the state of Americans' well-being. Gallup conducted more than 35,000 interviews for the survey, including over 1,700 with respondents who had been diagnosed with heart problems more than 12 months ago and over 450 with respondents who had been diagnosed within the past 12 months. The analysis controlled for age, gender, and race and ethnicity. These findings reveal that heart conditions can take a toll on workers in both the short and the long term.
The percentage of workers reporting difficulty concentrating at work due to a health or physical condition is about the same among those diagnosed with heart conditions in the past year (47%) as those diagnosed more than a year ago (42%). However, both groups are much more likely to say this is a problem than workers with no history of heart problems (28%). On the other hand, those diagnosed more recently reported missing more work.
Depression and anxiety, however, are linked more closely to at-work problems among those who have been diagnosed less recently than those diagnosed in the past year. Previous Gallup and Healthways research has shown a strong relationship exists between heart attacks and depression.
In spite of the higher likelihood of dealing with physical problems and depression or anxiety, the vast majority of workers who have had heart problems give themselves a relatively high rating for their performance on the job: 72% among those diagnosed in the last 12 months and 77% of those with earlier diagnoses. Eighty percent of workers without heart problems rated their job performance relatively highly.
Americans With Heart Problems Lag Behind in Purpose Well-Being
More generally, when looking at all Americans, those who have been diagnosed with heart problems lag behind those who have not been diagnosed in two of the key elements of well-being that the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks -- physical well-being (having good health and enough energy to get things done daily) and purpose well-being (liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals).
Within each element of well-being, Gallup and Healthways classify respondents as "thriving" (well-being that is strong and consistent), "struggling" (well-being that is moderate or inconsistent) or "suffering" (well-being that is low and inconsistent).
Sixteen percent of those diagnosed with heart problems in the last 12 months and 18% of those diagnosed earlier qualify as "thriving" in physical well-being, compared with 32% of those with no history of heart problems.
Thirty-four percent of those with recently diagnosed heart problems and 36% of those diagnosed earlier are thriving in purpose well-being, compared with 44% of those with no heart problems.
Additionally, some aspects of financial well-being are worse among those who have had heart issues than those who have not. Forty-seven percent of those recently diagnosed with heart problems and 43% of those diagnosed more than a year ago report worrying about finances in the last week, slightly more than of those who have never been diagnosed (38%).
U.S. workers who have been diagnosed with heart problems may find they have to deal with multiple personal obstacles. In addition to physical problems, anxiety and depression can affect these workers' ability to concentrate at work. Other aspects of their well-being can also suffer. Those with heart problems need the right tools to overcome these challenges to live healthy, fulfilling and productive lives.
Patients with heart disease can benefit from a treatment approach that not only focuses on improving diet and exercise habits but also on using their strengths at work, having strong social support and being connected to their communities. The advantages of a holistic approach to improving well-being extend beyond the patient: Research shows that as well-being increases, workplace productivity and performance increase while chronic disease burden and healthcare costs decrease.
According to Dr. Dean Ornish, founder and chief medical officer of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine at Healthways, "People know they should do something, but they don't know what to do. They may migrate to unhealthy choices because there is so much information out there, and they don't know what is true.
"We need to give them the tools. Not just giving them medicine -- we need to work with the person as a whole -- lifestyle and culture. We need to give them the tools to take and sustain the steps needed."
Learn more about the relationship between heart disease and key health outcomes in the State of American Well-Being: 2015 Community Rankings for Incidence of Heart Attack report. The report also features a ranking of 190 U.S. communities by incidence of residents who have experienced a heart attack.
This Gallup Panel web study was completed by 18,958 Panel members from 2014 to 2015 and 16,103 Panel members from 2015 to 2016. The specific survey field dates are March 26-May 14, 2014; March 2-April 1, 2015; and May 23-June 13, 2016. The Gallup Panel is a longitudinal panel of U.S. adults conducted via the web. The Gallup Panel is not an opt-in panel, and members do not receive incentives for participating.