Approach Genders Differently in Wellness Initiatives

May 30, 2014 ( – A survey shows marked differences in the perspectives, behaviors and attitudes male and female employees display towards their health and well-being.

Female employees are more concerned about their health and place a higher priority on staying healthy than their male counterparts; however, they are also more likely to view personal stress, affordability and lack of employer support as obstacles to improving their personal health, according to a survey from Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company.

Two-thirds (65%) of female employees feel they have control over their health compared with 50% of males. Female employees are also more likely to recognize key activities as important to their health and wellness. For example, 73% of females feel managing their emotional health and their stress levels are important to their overall health, compared with 54% and 57% of males, respectively. In addition, 67% of females believe getting routine medical screenings is an important factor in maintaining their health, compared with only 52% of males.

“While women are generally more actively engaged in their health care and understand what they need to do to get and stay healthy, employers need to ensure both men and women are making good health a priority,” says Joann Hall Swenson, health engagement leader at Aon Hewitt. “To effectively encourage healthier behaviors across the entire employee population, companies need to implement a holistic health and wellness strategy that considers different segments of the workforce, targets decisionmakers and encourages active employee participation in health decisions.”

Barriers to Good Health

Fifty-eight percent of female employees say they experience high stress, compared with 44% of males. In addition, 39% of females are more likely to say their stress has increased over the past 12 months, compared with only 26% of male employees.

Female employees are more likely to cite affordability as an obstacle in achieving good health (44%) compared with males (37%). For example, female employees who are enrolled in a consumer-driven health plan are more likely to say they sacrifice care (29% versus 18%), seek lower-cost options (27% versus 17%) or postpone care (27% versus 13%).

According to the survey, female employees are also less likely to feel they get appropriate support from their employers. Only 35% of females say their employers are extremely/very supportive in helping them get and stay healthy, compared with 45% of males.

Female employees are also more likely to want tools and solutions from their employers to help them better manage their health:

  • 60% of females would like their employers to offer free health tools and programs (versus 52% of males);
  • 56% of females would like to be rewarded for health achievements (versus 50% of males); and
  • 48% of females would like a personalized online view of how they use health care and other health information (versus 43% of males).

For employers to more effectively reach their entire work force about their personal health, Aon Hewitt experts suggest:

  • Segment the work force. Leveraging workforce data, employers need to segment their employee population and covered dependents demographically and attitudinally (i.e., what they value) and then design programs, incentives and marketing materials that best appeal to the unique needs of their work force. Once organizations assess the overall profile of male and female employees, they can tailor specific marketing and communication campaigns with better precision.
  • Target decisionmakers. Employers should intentionally communicate with individuals who are making the health decisions in a family. For example, companies may want to consider sending targeted communication that appeal uniquely to each gender about how to manage health services and expenses. Companies can also offer opt-in gender-specific health texts with language and tips more suited to each gender.
  • Encourage active participation in health decisions. Although women are more likely to make health care decisions for their families, employers should encourage males to more actively participate in health decisions and activities. In general, male workers tend to look online for their health information and recommendations, so companies should target their health communication by offering credible sources for health and medical advice.
  • Make dealing with stress a priority. Employers should identify the top issues driving stress within their work force population (looking at both work-related and personal drivers) and develop a strategy to address these issues. To appeal to women, companies should make these offerings easy and convenient to work around their family lives. Since male workers are more likely to cope with stress in sedentary ways, employers should also try to encourage exercise as a top motivator for managing stress. Additionally, to help employees respond in a healthy way to life stressors, companies should consider implementing programs targeted at building resilience.


For more information about the Consumer Health Mindset survey, visit