With the continuing rise in health care costs for both employers and employees, getting a handle on the baseline health of an employee group is important for any company and, of course, individuals themselves.
A key question: How can we characterize the healthiness of a given population — and what role can workplace wellness play to both improve the health levels and reduces overall health spend?
A new study by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and others provides insights.
The review of 17,219 occurred between Nov 2015-Dec 2016. Four groups of employee participants completed a “needs and interests survey at the initiation of the program.” According to the study, “the survey collected self-reported information concerning health, risk factors, and worksite policies and programs of interest to participants to be used by employers for planning their worksite wellness interventions.” The mean age was 43.9 years.
The results showed areas of health concern and other areas to watch:
- “87% of the respondents ate fewer than 5 servings of vegetables daily, 62% were overweight or obese, and 32% got fewer than 6 hours of sleep nightly, all of which are worse than national and state benchmarks.”
- “26% did not exercise for 30 minutes at least once weekly, and 21% reported unhealthy stress levels (no benchmarks available).”
- “Other risk factors (high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, and tobacco use) were better than national and state benchmarks.”
Perhaps even more telling, was the question of employee participation — would employees choose to engage in a program to address various factors?
Without even having an actual offering in place, respondents strongly indicated they would participate: “44% of employee participants indicated they would be likely to participate in programs that promote healthy eating, 63% would participate in programs that promote exercise, and 56% would participate in stress reduction programs.”
A well-run workplace wellness program can even advance those numbers. For example, Interactive Health recently announced its Healthiest Companies in America, where “honorees reached a truly remarkable 70 percent or greater participation rate in their workplace wellness program.”
The UMass study’s conclusion also points to the importance of workplace wellness programs:
“These data demonstrate the need for wellness programs that promote healthy eating, exercise, and stress reduction, as well as employees’ strong interest in workplace policies and programs that encourage these behaviors.”