Wellness Pays, Especially for Older Workers

Workplace health promotion programs cut average worker health costs by 18 percent, and even more for programs involving older workers.

A study published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed workplace health promotion programs can reduce average worker health costs by 18 percent. Savings are even larger for programs involving older workers, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) reported.

The number of Americans ages 65 and older who are still working topped 7 million during 2012, according to BLS; this study should encourage their employers and their HR managers to roll out wellness initiatives, if they haven't already taken the leap.

Jonathan P. Dugas, Ph.D., and colleagues at The Vitality Group, Chicago, combined data from two major studies to estimate savings from reductions in seven risk factors or medical conditions typically addressed by workplace wellness programs: physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, smoking, overweight/obesity, 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 percent. The possible savings increased with age: up to 28 percent for older working adults and retirees," according to the ACOEM news release.

Dugas and his co-authors wrote, "The potential savings from workplace wellness programs are still quite large and supportive of widespread interest by employers. 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."

Visit www.joem.org or www.thevitalitygroup.com for more information.

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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