Sit-stand desks for Australian office workers could be a cost-effective way to combat spiralling rates of obesity-related health issues according to Deakin University.
Deakin’s newly published economic evaluation looked at the Stand Up Victoria trial – funded by VicHealth and the NHMRC and led by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.
The trial supported 231 desk-based workers to stand up, sit less and move more via multiple strategies, including organisational support, health coaching, and sit-stand desks; 12 months after the intervention was introduced, participating workers achieved an average one hour per day reduction in their sitting time.
Lead author Dr Lan Gao, from Deakin Health Economics, said too much sitting time was a critical health concern greatly exacerbated for those in desk-bound occupations – 45 per cent of Australian workers.
“Workplace sitting is the largest contributor to daily sitting time among office workers, and excessive sitting is associated with serious health issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and shorter life expectancy,” Dr Gao said.
“This means it’s imperative we work towards both effective and cost-effective ways to decrease sitting time in the workplace.
“Sit-stand workstations – which allow the user to position the desk at a level convenient for sitting or standing – have been put forward as one possible solution to this issue, however up until now a barrier to their widespread introduction has been the perceived prohibitive cost.”
Deakin’s economic evaluation published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, estimated that if the intervention was scaled up to reach 20 per cent of Australia’s office workers, it would cost $185.2 million, but would save 7492 “health adjusted life years” by preventing a range of obesity-related diseases.
Dr Gao said this equated to a cost of $28,703 per year saved, well below the threshold of $50,000 that society was typically willing to pay for these health savings.
She said the cost would also be partially offset by the $84.2 million saved in healthcare costs over the lifetime of these workers.
VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said all workplaces could play their part in reducing the amount of time their workers spent sitting down.
“Our lifestyles – including our work life – has become more sedentary leading to a range of health issues. There are a range of strategies workplaces can adopt to help their staff to sit less like sit-stand workstations, walking or standing meetings or simply setting prompts for workers to get up and stretch their legs.”