Study Finds Wellness Impact Beyond Large Companies

April 5, 2011 ( – High-quality employee wellness programs in small businesses improve employee health and well-being, which drives improvements in organizational outcomes such as absenteeism, health care costs and disability claims, according to the new study.

A news release announcing the research said it broadens the well-being impact of workplace wellness efforts beyond just large businesses. Small businesses, which stand to benefit from financial incentives provided by health care reform legislation, are in need of guidance regarding their investment in programs that deliver results.

“These findings clearly indicate the dramatic consequences that small employer wellness programs can have on multiple domains of well-being, such as physical health, emotional health and healthy behaviors of employees,” said James E. Pope M.D., coauthor of the article and Chief Science Officer at Healthways. “These comprehensive findings offer a broad understanding of the areas that can adversely impact the productivity and health of a workforce.”

The study, facilitated by Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), known for its research on modifiable health risks and employee health care costs, evaluated the impact of Nebraska-based Lincoln Industries best practices program using the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (WBI).

The WBI is a survey of a population’s well-being based on a set of indexes that assess physical health, emotional health, healthy behavior, and basic access to health-related conditions and services. The WBI achieved an 87% response rate among Lincoln’s employees and individual values were assigned and aggregated to produce a set of domain scores for the entire population. Underscoring the strong health and wellness culture at Lincoln, this participation rate was achieved without incentives.

According to the news announcement, Lincoln Industries was identified in the study as a best practice program, consisting of initiatives focused on:

  • Increasing employee awareness of their health status
  • Fostering personal accountability
  • Promoting physical activity
  • Healthy diet
  • Community involvement
  • High levels of job satisfaction


Approximately 99% of employees complete regular health screenings, with a majority of the workforce participating in wellness activities throughout the year. Previous analyses of Lincoln’s program have documented the company’s success in reducing tobacco use and workers compensation costs, and the company’s resulting health care costs trend significantly lower than health care spending nationwide.

The study article is: “Evaluation of a Best-Practice Worksite Wellness Program in a Small-Employer Setting Using Selected Well-being Indices.” Ray M. Merrill, PhD, MPH, Steven G. Aldana, PhD, James E. Pope, MD, David R. Anderson, PhD, LP, Carter R. Coberley, PhD, Tonya P. Vyhlidal, MEd, Greg Howe, MS, and R. William Whitmer, MBA; Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Published Ahead-of-Print, March 14, 2011.

More information about the study is here.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index also found American workers who are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace — known as “actively disengaged” workers — rate their lives more poorly than do those who are unemployed (see Bad Job Worse than No Job at All?).