Physical, Mental and Financial Wellness Viewed as Equally Important

Responses to a large survey of health care consumers suggests that workers now expect their employers to support physical, mental and emotional, and financial wellbeing equally.

In collaboration with the National Business Group on Health and Kantar Consulting, Alight Solutions has published its 2018 Consumer Health Mindset Study.

The research report is aptly subtitled “engaged and confused,” and it underscores the enormous changes workers have seen over the last decade in the way employers think and talk about employee health and wellbeing. The report also addresses the growing importance of financial wellness programming, both from the perspective of employees and employers.

Even as they face an evolving health and wellbeing landscape, the share of employees who say they are doing everything within their power to promote and maintain good health increased by 8% over 2017, standing now at 60% of employees. In 2014, this figure was 52%. Tied to this, the confidence of moderate-volume and high-volume users of health care is also up in 2018. Fifty-three percent now say they can “understand and manage how I get services,” while 50% say they can “understand and manage how I pay for services.”

Less promising, 25% still say “the system and benefits are so difficult that I give up and just hope for the best,” but this number is down from 32% last year.

“As the years pass, more consumers are seeing value from employer wellbeing programs—both to themselves and to the organization,” the survey report states. “Consumers also indicate that the broad spectrum of wellbeing concerns is increasingly important in their personal lives. Unfortunately, there’s been almost no improvement in consumers’ understanding of where to go for the health care information they need.”

Asked if employee health and financial wellness promotion programs make their company a more attractive place to work for potential colleagues, 77% responded in the affirmative. At the same time, 59% suggested such wellness programs “are one of the reasons I stay at my job.” Asked to rate the impact of wellbeing programs on their personal lives, four in five employees said workplace mental health support, physical health support and financial wellbeing support are all directly important. Slightly less than half of employees said “social support programs” are important to their personal lives.

Notably, the importance of financial wellbeing is up five points this year, which puts it on par with emotional and mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing.

“Further, while emotional and mental wellbeing is still rated as very important, this category fell five percentage points from 2017,” the research explains. “These findings suggest that consumers now see physical, mental and emotional, and financial wellbeing as equally important. A new finding is tied to professional and career wellbeing. While 55% of consumers consider it important, it’s less important for Gen Xers and Boomers.”

Other notable findings show just 23% of younger Millennials rate the state of their financial wellbeing as “going well,” compared to 41% of Baby Boomers. Among the younger Millennial group, 36% say their level of debt is ruining their quality of life, and 53% say student loans significantly impact their ability to save for the long-term future.

According to the survey results, the percentage of consumers reporting “never” engaging in a specific set of savvy health care use behaviors—like comparing costs for recommended medical services to find the best value—has dropped slightly on six out of seven behaviors.

“While this decrease suggests some positive change, the large percentage of consumers that never take these actions also indicates a lot of room for improvement,” the report concludes. “Consumers with higher health care use and health literacy consistently respond with an increased likelihood of taking these actions.”

The full report is available for download here.

«