- A first-of-its-kind survey measures a potential antidote to the pandemic malaise enveloping many Americans: Vitality.
- The survey found that 18% of American adults had high vitality, meaning they were healthier, more likely to exercise, and less likely to be obese.
- Experts say it’s important to track the role of vitality as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
Cynthia Vitone volunteered at a theater near her hometown in Shelton, Connecticut. It was work that gave him purpose and social interaction — until the coronavirus shut down the performances.
Even though the pulse of everyday life at work and at home has returned to normal since the 2020 lockdowns, Vitone still feels a void and is looking for other volunteer opportunities.
“It made me feel good to be around people, to meet people and to have fun,” Vitone said. “I didn’t force myself to come up with anything else like this. Now I think, why didn’t I do this?”
Vitone’s self-assessment comes after she took part in a first-of-its-kind survey measuring a potential antidote to the pandemic malaise shrouding many Americans. New research from CIGNA and Morning Consult attempts to measure vitality and its influence on overall health and productivity.
The survey of over 10,000 American adults found that 18% had high vitality. These people were healthier, more likely to exercise, less likely to be obese, and more likely to have a primary care physician.
The 15% of adults with low vitality had poorer nutrition, less sleep and more chronic health problems. They are also more likely to be socially isolated, overweight, depressed, or anxious.
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Psychologist Richard Ryan, who has studied vitality and human motivation and helped develop the survey, believes it’s an important way to track vitality’s role in people as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus. Communities and employers could learn how to help people thrive.
“You can have a big impact if you focus on this particular variable because it’s so indicative of overall well-being,” Ryan said. “Then we can really identify routes to improve vitality.”
CIGNA, which has supported past research into the loneliness epidemic, has pledged to track vitality over the next few years through the Evernorth Vitality Index.
CIGNA officials said vitality values, promotes and prioritizes good health while also treating illness and disease. Helping people stay healthy can help employers and communities reduce healthcare costs but also guide people towards healthier and more productive lives.
“Harnessing the power of our individual vitality is essential for our collective future,” said David Cordani, President and CEO of Cigna. “Recent years have clearly illustrated that health is multidimensional and we need a more comprehensive measurement tool that can assess how we present ourselves at work, at home and in our communities.”
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The survey comes as studies show that the American workforce is struggling with burnout, mental health and fatigue.
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory in July on crisis levels of burnout among doctors, nurses, community and public health workers. He warned that the demands of COVID-19 were putting healthcare workers and their families at risk and pushing many “beyond their breaking point”.
Mental health issues have extended beyond healthcare workers. Many Americans have struggled to find work-life balance, with some pledging to “quietly quit” or put in minimal effort at work.
Last week, Murthy unveiled a strategy for the entire workforce. His office cited research that found that 76% of American workers reported at least one symptom of a mental health problem and 84% blamed working conditions for contributing to at least one mental health problem.
Murthy unveiled a five-point plan to encourage companies to focus on their people and make workplaces “powerhouses of mental health and wellbeing”.
“It will be worth it as the benefits will accrue for workers and organizations,” Murthy said.
CIGNA’s research, however, suggests that overall well-being extends beyond a person’s job. While people who earn more and have a higher level of education are more likely to thrive, researchers have also identified low-income people with enviable physical and mental health ratings and strong social circles.
Low-income adults with high vitality scores performed better than their wealthier counterparts on measures of choice and freedom, prioritized health, and had stronger social connections. They are also less likely to say their personal life is suffering because of work, the survey found.
Dr. David Brailer, CIGNA’s chief health officer, said the results give rise to optimism about how social connections influence a person’s outlook.
“What you’re hearing today is that there’s a lot of turnover, people are very distressed about the situation with their jobs,” Brailer said. “Something else happens because people feel good about themselves. It’s a lot of how you feel connected to your social sphere.”
“More loneliness, less social relations”
The survey revealed a wide variation between generations. Gen Z adults aged 18 to 24 had lower rates of chronic disease and were less obese than older adults.
But the survey found around 1 in 4 Gen Z adults had low vitality, with respondents revealing a lack of confidence in managing their health. About 32% of Gen Z adults had been diagnosed with or received treatment for clinical depression or anxiety, compared to 21% of the general population.
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Ryan said young adults have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and other social changes.
“I can see that reflected in a lack of confidence they have in the future and the handling of conditions,” Ryan said. “I think it’s really had an impact on them. I see more loneliness, less socializing in a time when that’s really what you want to do in life.”
Although older people tend to have more chronic health conditions, the survey found that adults aged 65 and over reported the highest overall vitality. These seniors may be less stressed about their finances than working-age adults. They also have access to Medicare, the government health insurance program for people age 65 and older, allowing them to see a doctor to manage chronic conditions.
Men had higher vitality scores than women as young adults and in middle age. However, women over 65 had the highest vitality of all age groups.
These results follow Vitone, 61, who increasingly sees the importance of social interactions. She grants writing among other duties to her work with a public health department in Connecticut.
But she is always looking for other volunteer opportunities. She wants to help others and “get out of her bubble” outside of work hours to make a difference in her community and improve her overall health.
“It’s a huge part of vitality — being in the world,” she said.
Ken Alltucker is on Twitter at @kalltucker, or can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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