The aches and pains of arthritis, sprains and strains, back, shoulder, neck and carpal tunnel problems are taking their toll today, particularly on an aging work population in America. These common disorders, collectively known as musculoskeletal disorders (or MSDs), are very costly and account for the second most common reason for medical treatment today. Poor lifestyle habits, such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and mental stress further compromise the health status and quality of life for people. The most common consequences of these poor lifestyle habits are the "big 3" diseases: cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. These three diseases inevitably shorten an average person's life span or seriously degrade the quality of life.
America is aging at an unprecedented rate, while physical fitness is declining at all ages. As of the year 2010, over 25% of the baby boomer work population is 65 years old or older! More alarmingly, the younger generations of workers that follow the baby boomers are less fit than their predecessors, with resulting earlier onset of obesity and obesity-related disorders, such as type II diabetes, arthritis, and degenerative disc disease. In fact, recent studies suggest a very disturbing and alarming statistic: One out of every three children born today may develop type II diabetes and lose 15–27 years of their normal life spans from complications of this disease! All of these trends will be translated into more on-the-job injuries, illness-related absenteeism, disability, and reduction in productivity.
The bottom line now is that the safety professional, being on the front line of injury prevention, must focus more today on root causes. Traditional medicine that addresses only symptoms and not the true causes of these problems can no longer be tolerated. In an era where we want to always blame someone else for our problems, the primary enemy for poor health and injuries is right there in the mirror facing each one of us every day.
Poor time management and stress, unhealthy diets, and lack of regular exercise have turned the United States into the fattest and one of the sickest nations in the world. Employers are seeing the effects of this phenomenon by the upward spiraling costs of health insurance, lost productivity from worker absenteeism, and reduced productivity from worker presenteeism! The burden of widespread declining health is fast becoming a crisis that threatens the economic foundation of the United States.