Social Component Important to Physical Wellness Programs

A survey which examined people’s opinions about health topics and preferences, offers insights to help improve employer-sponsored well-being or disease-management programs.

More than two-thirds of Americans say an incentive of as little as $2 per day would motivate them to devote at least an hour each day toward improving their health, while nearly 60% say they would be more likely to participate in a fitness routine if the program offered an opportunity to socialize or make friends, according to the 2019 UnitedHealthcare Wellness Checkup Survey.

More than half (57%) of survey respondents said they would be more likely to consistently participate in a fitness routine if the regimen provided a social component, either in-person or virtually. Among employees with access to a well-being program, 67% said it was important that their significant other or family members have the opportunity to participate, too.

Across all respondents, more than two-thirds (68%) said an incentive of as little as $2 per day would motivate them to devote at least an hour each day toward improving their health.

Companies across the country are expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on physical well-being programs in 2019 to help create healthier and more productive workforces, according to the 10th annual Health and Well-Being Survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health.

While there are various components to corporate well-being programs, the study revealed that 40% of these budgets will be applied to financial incentives that encourage employees, and their spouses/domestic partners, to participate in these programs.

According to the UnitedHealthcare survey, about one-fifth (22%) of survey respondents correctly recognized that 80% or more of the incidence of premature chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are generally caused by modifiable lifestyle choices, such as risk factors like smoking or obesity, as opposed to being caused by genetic factors. More than one-third (38%) thought between 50% and 79% of premature chronic conditions were caused by lifestyle choices, while 32% said genetics were to blame for more than half of these diseases.

Respondents shared top priorities for trying to improve their health, which can inform employer-sponsored physical well-being program design. Survey respondents considered a healthy diet, such as eating fruits and vegetables, as the top priority when trying to improve their health, with a mean score of 4.5 (5 being “extremely important”). That was followed by access to routine medical care, such as an annual physical (4.4); stopping smoking and/or reducing drinking (4.4); getting sufficient sleep (4.3); engaging in strength or cardiovascular training (4.3); increasing social activity (3.7); and improving mindfulness (3.6).

Results from physical wellness programs

The UnitedHealthcare survey found more than half (57%) of people with access to wellness programs said the initiatives have made a positive impact on their health. Of these, 82% said they were motivated to pay more attention to their health; 63% said they increased physical activity; 59% improved their diet; and 30% reported improved sleep. More than one-quarter (27%) said the program helped detect a disease or medical condition, while 8% said they stopped smoking or using nicotine.

In regard to job performance among those who said the well-being program made a positive impact on their health, 50% said the initiative helped reduce stress; 49% reported improved productivity; and 35% said they took fewer sick days. About one-quarter (26%) reported no impact on job performance.

Among employees without access to wellness programs, 70% of respondents said they would be interested in such initiatives if offered, including 43% who are “very interested.” More than three-quarters (77%) of Gen Xers said they wanted access to a well-being program, more so than any other age group.

The UnitedHealthcare Wellness Checkup Survey was conducted April 11-15, 2019, using the Engine Telephone CARAVAN survey among a sample of 1,000 adults ages 18 and older living in the continental United States.