Wellness Programs Can Save 18% per Worker

January 14, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) Workplace wellness programs have the potential to reduce average worker health costs by 18%, according to a study.

Jonathan P. Dugas, Ph.D., and colleagues of The Vitality Group, Chicago, combined data from two major studies to estimate the possible savings in medical costs from reductions in key health risk factors. The study focused on seven risk factors or medical conditions typically addressed by workplace wellness programs: physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, smoking, being overweight/obese, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and alcohol abuse.

The results suggested that—if all heightened risk factors could be reduced to their “theoretical minimums”—total medical care expenses per person for all working age adults would be reduced by about $650, or approximately 18%. The possible savings increased with age: up to 28% for older working adults and retirees.

While the maximum savings estimated are unlikely to be achieved immediately, Dugas and colleagues said, “Medical care savings from workplace wellness programs will increase with time, given that more eligible wellness program members participate, effective control of heightened risk factors improves and greater risk reversal can be achieved.” 

The study is in the January Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), found at www.joem.org.