The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) has published a new report on the future of occupational health and how to build wellbeing into organisational life.

The paper, by the occupational physician Dr Jenny Napier, sets out the important role of occupational health practitioners as strategic advisors to organisations on the wellbeing at work agenda.

It also looks at:

  • what wellbeing is (including the difference between health and wellbeing)

  • why wellbeing matters to organisations

  • how wellbeing can be fostered.

In everyday language, the report points out that health is often used to describe the absence of disease. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) takes this further and defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.

The report says good physical and mental health contribute significantly to personal wellbeing but, in turn, wellbeing supports improved health outcomes.

In fact, those who rate themselves with better wellbeing not only feel healthier and make better lifestyle choices, but also have a decreased risk of disease, illness and injury, with better immune functioning, speedier recovery from operations, illnesses and injuries as well as increased longevity.

Indeed, research shows that feeling happier and more contented reduces death rates by 20%, and the risk of reduced functioning through illness.

Therefore, the report warns that wellbeing requires more than physical and mental health alone. Wellbeing requires that the way in which we live and work offer security, connection and meaning.

The report concludes, “This is a time in which society needs to build evidence and practices that encourage sustainable and evolutionary employment practices. Taking a ‘whole system’ partnership approach, occupational health practitioners can be at the centre of supporting a healthier, happier working environment and working age population.”

The report is available on request from the SOM.

Last reviewed 20 June 2019