Employee health and wellness is one of the key reasons affecting healthcare costs. Studies show employee healthcare costs may increase by 5.3% in 2021. And so, employers are now implementing corporate wellness programs to ensure better employee engagement, reduce health risks, improve wellbeing, and boost productivity.
Many epidemiology studies have proved the association between health behaviors and healthcare costs. Unhealthy behaviors like cigarette smoking or a sedentary lifestyle reflect elevated healthcare costs. Understanding how health behaviors are related to healthcare costs gives a better perception of the effect of wellness on the cost of healthcare.
Healthy Habits Reduce Healthcare Costs
Healthy habits influence holistic health and wellbeing, boost productivity, and reduce healthcare costs. Many studies have shown a direct correlation between employee health habits and holistic wellness.
esearchers from the Centers for Disease Control collected and merged information about age, sex, body mass index, socioeconomic status, and other confounding factors, of more than a decade from almost 58,000 individuals. The data also included healthcare costs information from federal agencies and private insurance companies. The merged data helped in evaluating the variation in healthcare costs for individuals with varying physical activity levels. The outcomes proved the importance of exercise for employee wellbeing and reduced healthcare costs.
Employees who spent more than 150-minutes a week on exercise and physical activity costed their company around $4,500 per year on healthcare costs. On the other hand, individuals who got less than 150-minutes of the weekly activity spent $5,076 annually, and those who had a sedentary lifestyle spent $5,813 per year. On an average, 11.1% of the total US healthcare costs were related to inadequate physical activity, which means almost $333 billion out of the $3 trillion spent last year on health care costs was due to physical inactivity.
Many other studies have carefully evaluated the healthcare costs associated with unhealthy lifestyle factors like smoking, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. The reports showed the elevation in the cost was proportional to the unhealthy behaviors.
While diabetes alone contributed to almost 20% of the total healthcare costs, 70% was amounted to by other factors like stress, unhealthy eating habits, substance abuse, and accidents. There was a correlation amongst different habits and behaviors, like those who were diabetic were also physically inactive. Other studies show that changing lifestyle habits can save up to $730 billion in healthcare costs.
Unhealthy Behaviors And Its Impact On Annual Healthcare Costs
Studies show drastic differences in the healthcare costs spent on individuals who follow healthy habits and those who practice unhealthy habits. While the difference in healthcare costs between employees who smoke and non-smoking workers is almost $2,056 annually per person, the difference between those who are physically active and inactive is about $1,313 annually. Employers had to spend an additional $733 annually if the employee had high blood pressure, $2,085 extra if they are obese, and $2,151 if they had diabetes, compared to the workers who did not have diabetes.
A study by the New England Journal of Medicine showed the association of chronic diseases with unhealthy risk factors and habits. For example, every 1% drop in the total cholesterol levels reduced the risk of heart attack by 2% or 3%. Also, there was a 2% – 3% drop in the risk of heart diseases for every point drop of high diastolic blood pressure. So, it was evident that employee health and wellbeing and the health risks were associated with their lifestyle habits mostly, thus, impacting the expensive healthcare costs.
How Corporate Wellness Programs Can Reduce Healthcare Costs?
The association of unhealthy behaviors with elevated health risks and rising healthcare costs is evident from many studies. And so, the key to reducing healthcare costs and health risks is to cultivate healthy living habits. Employee wellness programs focus on implementing effective behavior change strategies to improve employee health behaviors and reduce health risks and associated healthcare costs.
However, for the corporate wellness programs to give the desired outcomes, it is necessary to plan and design the right wellness program modules. The wellness program must offer activities and resources that can help employees change and follow healthy habits for the rest of their lives. Only when the wellbeing programs have an effective long-term positive effect on employee health and wellbeing, the potential health risks and healthcare costs can be reduced. So, employers must incorporate the right employee engagement strategies and other pointers to build a successful employee wellness program.