269783 Better workplace health and safety through improved mental wellbeing: The powerful impact of an aerobic laughter psychosocial support program on 604 healthcare workers across South Africa

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Memory Matanda, MSc (psychology) , HappyMetrics, InHappiness (International Happiness Institute), Johannesburg, DC, South Africa
Bill Gee, Laughterologist , InHappiness (International Happiness Institute), Johannesburg, South Africa
Malik Jaffer, MPH , United States Agency for International Development, Pretoria, GA, South Africa
Kathy Wiebe-Randeree, MBA , Office of the CEO, Klerksdorp Tshepong Hospital Complex, Klerksdorp, DC, South Africa
Estelle Du Toit, Professional Nurse , Nursing Management, Matlosana Hospice, Klerksdorp, GA, South Africa
Background: Healthcare workers experience high levels of stress. Many experience depression and burnout that can reduce health, mindfulness, productivity and lead to mistakes and accidents. Psychosocial support programs using aerobic laughter therapy (ALT) provide cognitive behavioral therapy within the framework of positive psychology. The efficacy of this program was investigated in 29 groups of community, palliative and hospital healthcare workers that experience stressful work conditions. Methods: 604 healthcare workers in six South African provinces received one-day ALT training and engaged in daily peer-to-peer ALT therapy group sessions of 10-15 minutes. A meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative and performance assessments made over periods of 2 weeks, 3 months, 9 months, and one year is being conducted (9 months of data from the hospital sample n=125 will be complete in October 2012). Results: Data received show significant increases in problem solving ability, mindfulness, mental wellbeing, emotional intelligence, and productivity (56%). Dramatic reductions were seen in stress, depression and burnout; in physical stress indicators including sleep problems (-32%), headaches and migraine (-25%), and digestive problems (-67%); in workdays feeling depressed (-62%), feeling stressed (-50%), feeling sick (-64%), and feeling worried (-80%); and in absenteeism (52%), presenteeism, burnout, stress, depression, and workplace conflict. Participants reported significant improvements in happiness, satisfaction with life, and quality of life. Conclusions: Aerobic laughter based psychosocial support programs can result in significant improvements in workplace health and safety through improved mental wellbeing. The program is economical, sustainable, and evidence-based and can be quickly implemented without psychologists or other healthcare specialists.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Occupational health and safety
Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related nursing

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the significant improvement in mental wellbeing in 604 South African highly stressed workers and it's impact on occupational health and safety. Assess whether this program could be beneficial to workplace groups I work with.

Keywords: Mental Health, Well-Being

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a senior technical advisor for health systems strengthening including improving health workforce retention and effectiveness. Among my scientific interests has been the design, testing and evaluating of programs to improve the well-being of health care workers.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.