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Worksite wellness

Good health is also good for your business. Worksite wellness programs cultivate healthy workforces and positively impact healthcare costs, absenteeism and presenteeism costs and workplace culture.

The cost of doing nothing

Studies show that the natural flow of health risks for employee populations is to move from low risk to moderate and high risk. The natural flow of health costs1 is also towards high cost.

Implementing an effective worksite wellness program is a valuable tool to use in bending this trend.

  • A culture of health

    Many employers focus primarily on "bending the health care cost trend." But research, such as the Towers Watson 2011/2012 survey, also shows a strong link between a healthy worksite culture and strong human capital and financial results.

    Corporate culture is a factor that can make or break a wellness program. The more stressed and unengaged an employee feels, the less they're able to make lifestyle changes and adopt the wellness programs you put in place at your worksite.

    A healthy culture is a culture in which the healthy choice is the easy choice. Employees who perceive their organizations as having a strong culture of health are happier, less stressed and more likely to take control of their well-being than employees in other organizations, according to a National Business Group on Health survey.2

  • The cost of chronic disease

    The number of individuals affected by chronic conditions – including stress – continues to rise, negatively affecting workplace productivity and health care costs.

    • One in three Michigan adults is obese, one in four is physically inactive and one in five smoke. Unhealthy choices can lead to chronic disease.3
    • Eighty three percent of medical spending is tied to chronic disease.4
    • Indirect costs (e.g., days missed at work) are approximately four times higher for individuals with chronic disease compared with healthy individuals, based on results from a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.5
    • Full-time workers with diagnosed depression miss 4.3 more days each year than those without depression.6
    • The percentage of Americans who are obese (with a BMI of 30 or higher) has tripled since 1960 to 34 percent, while the incidence of extreme or "morbid" obesity (BMI above 40) has risen sixfold, to 6 percent. Because obesity raises the risk of a host of medical conditions, from heart disease to chronic pain, obese individuals are absent from work more often than people of healthy weight. The most obese men take 5.9 more sick days a year; the most obese women, 9.4 days more. Obesity-related absenteeism costs employers as much as $6.4 billion a year.7
    • Stress is also a driver of many chronic diseases. According to the American Psychological Association:
      • 60 percent of workers reported losing productivity due to stress while at work during the past month.
      • Stressed workers suffer from fatigue, make more mistakes and are more likely to be absent than nonstressed employees.
      • 1 million employees miss work each day because of stress and this costs companies an average of $702 per employee per year.

    "When people are under chronic stress, they tend to smoke, drink use drugs and overeat to help cope. These behaviors trigger a biological cascade that helps prevent depression, but they also contribute to a host of physical problems that eventually contribute to early death"

    - Rick Nauert, PhD, National institute of Mental Health,  May 2010.

  • Bending the healthcare cost trend

    Health care costs continue to rise, cutting into company profits and affecting the ability to stay competitive. Multiple studies have shown savings from worksite wellness programs, such as:

    • A meta-analysis of 22 programs found an average reduction of medical costs of about $3.27 for every dollar spent. Wellness is a multiyear investment strategy, employers should expect a good three years before real savings appear.8
    • Health costs rose at a 15 percent slower rate among employees participating in wellness programs, with average savings at $332 per employee per year, according to a study by Highmark Inc. The study reported that two or three years are needed for savings to materialize. The study did not factor possible additional savings by reduced absenteeism or lost productivity.9
    • Efforts to help workers manage chronic illnesses saved $3.78 in health care costs for every dollar invested according to a RAND study that examined a PepsiCo wellness program. But the study found lifestyle-management programs failed to offer returns greater than the costs. Still, employers say they believe preventive efforts are worthwhile, with programs helping to attract and retain workers as well as keep them more engaged and productive.10
  • Impact on absenteeism and presenteeism

    Absenteeism is when employees are not at work. Presenteeism is being present at the workplace but not being productive due to an illness (acute or chronic), lack of motivation or work overload. The indirect costs of poor health – including absenteeism, disability and presenteeism - may be several times higher than direct medical costs.11 Good health "plays a large role in employee productivity," says a research study by the Milken Institute, an economic think tank. The institute's researchers concluded that common chronic diseases (including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease) are responsible for $1.1 trillion in lost productivity annually in the U.S. economy. They attributed those losses both to absenteeism and to presenteeism.12

    In the meta-analysis study of 22 programs, it found that for every dollar spent on wellness programs, the companies' absenteeism-related costs fell about .73.88

    “The Cost of Chronic Disease” section above includes additional statistics related to the absenteeism and presenteeism.

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1 Edington, D. W. Zero trends: health as a serious economic strategy. Ann Arbor, MI: Health Management Research Center, University of Michigan, 2009.

2 Jolin, Nikki. "2014 Consumer Health Mindset." Aon. Accessed May 05, 2017.

3 "How Healthy is your County? | County Health Rankings." County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Accessed May 05, 2017.

4 "Fiscal Year 2001: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)." Archive: Agency for Healthcare Research Quality. Accessed May 05, 2017.

5 PricewaterhouseCoopers. "Health Research Institute." PwC. Accessed May 05, 2017.

6Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index collected between Jan. 2 2011 and Dec. 30, 2012.

7 Finkelstein, Eric A., Marco Dacosta Dibonaventura, Somali M. Burgess, and Brent C. Hale. "The Costs of Obesity in the Workplace." Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 52, no. 10 (2010): 971-76. doi:10.1097/jom.0b013e3181f274d2.

8 Baicker, K., D. Cutler, and Z. Song. "Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings." Health Affairs 29, no. 2 (2010): 304-11. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2009.0626.

9 Chapman, Larry S. "Meta-Evaluation of Worksite Health Promotion Economic Return Studies: 2012 Update." American Journal of Health Promotion 26, no. 4 (2012). doi:10.4278/ajhp.26.4.tahp.

10 Mattke, Soeren, and Christopher Schnyer. Review of the U.S. Workplace Wellness Market. RAND Corporation, 2012.

11 "Workplace Health Promotion." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 13, 2016. Accessed May 05, 2017.

12 "An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease -- Charting a New Course to Save Lives and Increase Productivity and Economic Growth." Milken Institute. Accessed May 05, 2017.

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