Date of Award

8-2005

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Adrienne A. White

Second Committee Member

Nellie G. Hedstrom

Third Committee Member

Mahmoud M. El-Begearmi

Abstract

Lifestyle practices of adults affect not only their personal present and future health status, but also the overall health status and health care costs in the workplace. Focusing on wellness within the workplace is vitally important. A good foundation to an effective wellness program is to assess employee lifestyle behaviors. Lifestyle changes are more probable when employees become aware of their current behaviors. The present study was a collaborative project between human nutrition researchers and University of Maine Cooperative Extension faculty to assess Cooperative Extension employees' lifestyle behaviors indicative of general health status and their readiness to change behaviors. All Cooperative Extension (n = 220) employees were mailed a 23 question survey, following the Tailored Dillman Method, to assess the lifestyle behaviors related to food intake, physical activity, smoking, sleep, stress, happiness, and social support. Usable surveys were returned by 71% (35 males, 121 females). Mean body mass index computed for the sample did not statistically differ by gender and fell within the slightly overweight range. No differences by employee category were found for any variables tested. High percentages of subjects reported being non-smokers (94.2%), consuming meat on a weekly basis (8 1.4%), being physically active (7 1.1%) and getting 7-8 hours of sleep most of the time (62.8%). The percentages were less for those who reported being very happy (42.3%), eating three or more daily servings of grains (33.3%), or eating 5-9+ servings of fruits and vegetables per day (26.3%). Low percentages were reported for those who met all three factors for social support (14.1%) or reported eating 5-9 + servings of nuts per week (1.3%). No regular physical activity was reported by 28.8% of the sample. Self-reported readiness to make changes or improvements in six selected health habits and overall lifestyle was assessed. The percent of the sample in the preaction Stages of Change (Precontemplation, Contemplation, and Preparation) were as follows, 31.2% for stress; 26.6% for physical activity; 24.8% for weight; 23.1% for alcohol; 18.9% for eating habits; and 5.8% for smoking. A third of the sample were in maintenance for practicing good habits related to physical activity, weight maintenance or handling stress well. Almost half (47.7%) of the sample were in maintenance for practicing good eating habits. The majority (73.2%) were in maintenance for avoiding alcohol or drinking in moderation. Most (83%) of the sample reported being in action or maintenance for living an overall healthy lifestyle. Based on these results, recommendations were made which may provide a basis for future wellness program planners to promote opportunities for Cooperative Extension employees to improve their overall health and well-being. Focus of future programs should be on supporting current healthful behaviors and reducing unhealthful behaviors so that extension as a whole benefits.

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