Work is good for your health, wealth and happiness

15 Mar 2022

Ingeus Health Educator Ruth Martinez, nutritionist and former NHS healthy lifestyle specialist, leads our team of health professionals for Central London Works. Working alongside employability case workers helping people back into employment, she describes the important link between good work and good health.
While we all may not bound of bed cheerfully in the mornings to start our day’s work, there is no denying that work is good for you. Work represents so many important elements to most people: pride, better health, wider social networks and, of course, more financial security.
The right work is central to a person’s identity, social roles and social status, thereby improving quality of life and wellbeing. The health benefits of having a job are well documented. These include stronger mental and physical health, an improved sense of self-esteem, a feeling of community, social inclusion and a structure to your life. Not forgetting the money, of course.
As a society we are programmed to work. It is a big part of our identity and having a job opens the world up to you. A study by the Department of Health measured ‘life satisfaction’ and showed those in work had a rating of 7.6 out of 10, which fell to 6.6 among those without jobs.
Not having a job affects many areas of your life, with long term unemployed people commonly experiencing poorer health, anxiety and feelings of isolation. A report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions showed strong evidence that the effect of unemployment includes higher mortality, poorer general health, depression and higher hospital admission rates. A lot of people we see say that being unemployed makes them feel ineffectual and isolated. They have lost their sense of purpose.
Central London Works (CLW) is central London’s version of the government’s Work and Health Programme. Commissioned by Central London Forward, with support from the European Social Fund, it helps long term unemployed people across the Capital move closer to employment. Of more than 4,600 new customers joining our CLW programme last year, almost half declared a health condition or disability.
If somebody is unemployed because of poor health they are more likely to deteriorate. And that’s where we come in.
The Ingeus health team includes mental health practitioners, physiotherapists, counsellors and nutritionists. We work alongside our employability colleagues who refer people to us for whom poor health is a major barrier to employment.
A lot of people experience anxiety and depression to varying degrees. Often they have little confidence, can’t communicate, and are resistant to change. Our job is to help them move forward to a point where our caseworkers are better able to prepare them for the world of work.
Simple interventions can make a massive difference to your mental and physical health. We recommend that our participants maintain a routine, like getting up and going to bed at the same time every day; increase their physical exercise – just a walk each day is hugely beneficial; and stay connected with the people around them.  
 We also hold numerous health workshops – with almost 3,600 attendances last year – covering areas including mental health strategies like confidence building, managing anxiety, mood and stress, and healthy lifestyles. For those with physical conditions such as back pain, COPD and arthritis, the workshops include awareness and pain management.
Our physios often give people advice and exercises people can do at home, under the additional guidance of a GP that’s what’s best for them. We measure people’s progress using a health score but for us as a team it’s always about the individuals behind the numbers.
Even the smallest achievements mean a lot to us. A lady who had been scared to step outside eventually came to a workshop, but had walked all the way, stressed and frightened. The next time she attended a session, she announced: “I got on a bus!” A little thing; but it meant a lot to us.

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