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Health Affairs

IBI Spotlights call attention to important health and productivity findings from peer-reviewed work by external researchers. Unless otherwise stated, the authors are not affiliated with IBI, nor was the research executed on IBI’s behalf. IBI members are encouraged to obtain the original articles from the copyright holder.

What is the Issue?

Studies of the health spending and productivity savings from workplace wellness programs are not typically conducted rigorously. As a result, claims for saving from wellness programs are not well established.

What are the findings/solutions?

  • High quality studies (with well-defined new interventions and either randomized controlled or matched treatment and control groups) suggest that targeted wellness programs saved about 1.8 days per employee per year.
  • ROI for reduced absence was about $2.73.
  • Return on investment for health care costs was $3.27.

Journal Citation

Baicker, K., Cutler, D., & Song, Z. (2010). Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings. Health Affairs, 29(2), 304-311.

Objectives

To understand the health spending and productivity savings possible from workplace wellness programs.

Method

A meta-analysis of 36 high-quality studies of workplace wellness programs. Intervention characteristics included HRAs, self-help education, counseling, group activities, and incentives for participations. Conditions typically included obesity, smoking, as well as multiple risk factors. 22 studies focused on health care spending and 22 focused on absenteeism; 8 studies focused on both. Studies were typically of larger employers.

Results

The average study reported $3.27 in health care spending saved for every dollar spent on wellness programs. The results were slightly lower for absenteeism – $2.73 in savings for every dollar spent. The average study reported an average of 1.7 – 1.9 days absence days saved.

Conclusion

The wider adoption of workplace wellness programs by large employers could produce substantial savings.

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