Study: Vast Majority Has No Access to Wellness Programs at Work

According to a study announced yesterday by the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, only 35 percent of employees report that they have access to wellness programs at work, and of that number, half say they are currently enrolled in a program. Despite this small number of workers in a program, the study also revealed that two-thirds of all employees and 85 percent of those who are currently enrolled or have participated in a wellness program in the past three years say that these programs are very effective in promoting good health.

These results come from a telephone survey Guardian conducted in October 2007 with 473 participants who were at least 18 years of age and said that they were employed either full or part time. A separate 2007 Guardian survey showed that 82 percent of small employers, 90 percent of midsize employers, and 99 percent of large employers see value in implementing wellness programs. Nevertheless, only 57 percent of the small businesses that value the programs have implemented some type of plan, the study found.

The October '07 survey also revealed that even among those employees who said they participated in wellness programs, nearly half admitted that their commitment trailed off after just a few years. Sixty-eight percent of employees believe that incentives such as cash, gifts, and extra vacation days can help them to shore up the willpower to adopt healthier behaviors such as exercising, eating properly, and kicking their smoking habits, the survey showed. In all, only three in 10 employees either currently participate and/or have participated in a wellness program in the past three years, Guardian found.

"With only a third of employees reporting that wellness programs are available at their jobs, employers and the benefits industry have to do a better job of increasing awareness about these programs," said Tim Bireley, Guardian's Group Medical vice president. "There is also an enormous opportunity to educate small and midsize business owners about the benefits of wellness initiatives. If most employees at companies large and small were actively participating in wellness programs we might see a significant decline in the cost of medical care in the United States."

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