Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Paul E. Spector, Ph.D.

Keywords

Organizational climate, Nutrition, Exercise, Health, Work environment

Abstract

Obesity is a major concern in the United States and has a multitude of negative physical and mental health consequences. Proper nutrition and exercise are important elements to initiating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Since most people spend a large amount of their time working, it is important that organizations create an atmosphere that is conducive to employees being able to eat healthy diets and exercise regularly. The social and environmental climate in terms of health was examined through the construct of a Workplace Nutrition and Exercise Climate (WNEC), defined here as the situational, social, and environmental factors within an organization that encourage and provide support to employees interested in eating healthy and exercising. This study sought to develop a scale for this construct and test its reliability, validity, and relationships to important health behavior and outcome variables.

One-hundred and fifty-six participants were recruited to take an online survey, as well as provide contact information for 2 co-workers. Forty-three of these participants were successfully matched directly to 1 or 2 co-workers in their organization. The scale showed evidence for reliability, through high internal consistency and interrater reliability. The results showed that the scale should be considered a single construct, but that individual nutrition or exercise can be measured if the user has empirical evidence that it is necessary for their research question. The scale also improved on a previous measure of health climate in a number of ways. The construct was directly related to organizational health benefits, self-reported healthy diet, job satisfaction, and depression.

Additionally, while the initial simple mediation model proposed was not supported by the data (neither proper diet nor exercising behaviors individually mediated the relationship between the new construct of workplace nutrition and exercise climate and the physical and mental health variables), some exploratory moderation models showed promising leads for future researchers. Specifically, males and females differed on their relationships between the current climate construct and the self-reported healthy diet and total exercise frequency variables. Given the wealth of previous research that shows the negative effects of obesity, if these findings continue to be supported, it may indicate that WNEC plays a crucial, primary prevention role in helping employees get and/or stay healthy. Future research should continue to look at this new construct of WNEC, design studies that allow for aggregation and investigation of the shared climate, and determine how researchers and practitioners can create a healthy WNEC in an organization.

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