Human Resources News & Insights

Wellness is great — but is it saving you any money?

Jumping on that wellness trend is sure to save a bunch of money down the line, right? New research says maybe not.

Wellness worked — and then it didn’t

Wellness programs may not be saving employers much money, says new research published in a recent issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Independent researchers tracked a two-year wellness program conducted at BJC HealthCare, a hospital system in St. Louis with 28,000 employees and 40,000 people (including family members) on its health insurance.

The initiative concentrated on helping in six specific areas:

  • serious respiratory infections
  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure, and
  • chronic lung problems.

The program was incredibly comprehensive: health risk assessments, smoking cessation programs, requirements from employees to diet and exercise, and so on.

Employees who participated were put on the hospital’s best level of health insurance, and the hospital paid nearly $1,650 more of costs for family coverage of people on that plan.

But the results weren’t what the hospital hoped for. Yes, hospitalizations for employees and family members dropped by 41% for all six concentration areas, saving the hospital a ton of money.

But most of those savings were wiped out by an increase in outpatient visits and medication — meaning the hospital came out about even.

Researchers did note that the study didn’t measure intangible effects of a wellness program like better productivity or reduced absenteeism.

The takeaway: Though it might seem like wellness initiatives are a sure thing, the jury may still be out — especially regarding their profitability.

Stress issues

There’s also one other wellness issue it seems like companies are having a hard time cracking: stress.

One out of every three employees experiences chronic stress, according to new research from the American Psychological Association.

The stress issues are more likely to affect women, who also noted they feel underpaid and unappreciated.

So where’s that stress coming from?

  • 54% of those surveyed said they weren’t paid enough
  • 61% said they have little or no means of advancing in their positions, and
  • Only 50% of people feel like they’re valued at work.

And while overall stress levels (35%) have fallen compared to last year (41%), so too has work-life balance and job satisfaction.

Is there any way to help staff reduce stress? One recent study had an interesting solution: Help people climb the corporate ladder.

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