Workplace Wellness Programs: Supporting Scientific Research and Wellness Statistics
(Adapted from The Health Promotion First Act prepared by David Anderson, Ph.D., StayWell Health Management)
Employee Lifestyles Impact Employee Health
• Approximately 40 percent of all deaths in the U.S. are premature (at least 900,000 deaths each year) and are due to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, misuse of alcohol and drugs, and accidents. Other contributors to early death include genetic predisposition (30 percent), social circumstances (15 percent), poor access to quality health care (10 percent), and environmental exposures (5 percent).
• Unhealthy lifestyle is the primary factor to the six leading causes of death in the United States – heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory diseases, accidents, and diabetes – which collectively account for over 70 percent of all deaths.
• People with healthier lifestyles live an average of 6 to 9 years longer, postpone disability by 9 years and compress disability into fewer years at the end of life.
• The prevalence of obesity among American adults rose to 30 percent in 1999-2000, a 33 percent increase from a decade earlier, and the prevalence of diabetes also rose by 33 percent during approximately the same period (1990 to 1998).
• About two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, 55 percent do not get enough physical activity, 26 percent are completely inactive,10 and only 25 percent eat recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables If diet/physical activity patterns continue worsening at their current rate, these behaviors will soon surpass tobacco use as contributors to mortality.
• Among young people, the prevalence of overweight has more than quadrupled in the past 20 years to 16 percent, daily participation in high school physical education classes has dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 28 percent in 2003, more than 60 percent eat too much saturated fat, and almost 80 percent do not eat recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.
• Lifestyle diseases disproportionately affect women, ethnic and racial minorities, the poor and seniors:
• The prevalence of diabetes among African Americans is about 70 percent higher than among white Americans, and the prevalence among Hispanics is nearly double that for white Americans.
• Women comprise more than 50% of the people who die each year of cardiovascular disease.
• Chronic conditions significantly limit daily activity for 35 percent of persons over 65 years of age.
Financial Impact of Lifestyle
• It is estimated that lifestyle-related chronic diseases account for 70 percent of the nation’s health care costs, which translates to over 11 percent of the entire United States gross domestic product.
• Two comprehensive scientific reviews identified 83 peer-reviewed research studies reporting that people with unhealthy habits have higher health costs.
• Research conservatively estimates that high health risks (high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc) account for at least 25 percent of total health costs.
• Recent research indicates a direct relationship between modifiable lifestyle risks and lower worker productivity, and relevant data suggest that the costs to corporations in lost productivity due to poor employee health may be substantially more than the direct health and disability costs.
• Unhealthy lifestyles frequently lead to chronic disease, many of which cannot be cured and require years or decades of expensive treatments. Below are estimated annual costs of selected unhealthy lifestyles and chronic diseases including obesity, tobacco use, hypertension, diabetes, stress, and inactivity.
Workplace Wellness Programs Improve Health and Yield Major Savings
• Comprehensive scientific reviews identified 378 peer-reviewed research studies showing that Workplace Wellness Programs improve health knowledge, health behaviors, and underlying health conditions.
• Research studies have demonstrated that lifestyle modification may frequently be more effective and cost-effective than health intervention in lowering morbidity and mortality.
• Several scientific reviews indicate that Workplace Wellness Programs reduce health costs and rates of absenteeism and produce a positive return on investment (ROI). The most definitive review of financial impact reported that:
• 18 research studies indicated that these Workplace Wellness Programs reduce health costs, and 14 research studies indicated that they decrease rates of absenteeism costs.
• 13 research studies that calculated benefit/cost ratios all showed the savings from these Workplace Wellness Programs are much greater than their cost, with health cost savings averaging $3.48 and the rates of absenteeism savings averaging $5.82 per dollar invested in the Workplace Wellness Programs.
• Medical costs are expected to exceed 16 percent of United States gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005 and to grow at 7.2 percent each year through 2015, when health expenditures will account for 20 percent of GDP:
• Per capita health costs in the United States are the highest in the world and more than double the median for OECD countries, yet the U.S. ranks 26th in terms of healthy life expectancy.
• Medicaid is the second largest item in the majority of state budgets, and its portion of the total budgets is increasing each year.
• Increasing health costs for United States corporations continue to outpace general inflation, averaging 12 percent per year for the past 10 years. This trend is causing a tremendous financial hardship on United States corporations.