Employee health and wellness has become a top priority for employers like never before, and the primary reasons are better productivity and lower healthcare costs.
Healthcare costs increase significantly with age, and the highest risk and higher spending are attributed to people of 65 years of age and above.
In one of our previous blogs, we had talked about a survey that predicted a 5.3% increase in the healthcare costs in 2021.
A new study report published in the Lancet Public Health journal revealed that almost three-quarters of healthcare costs are associated with modifiable health diseases like smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Modifiable Risk-Attributed Healthcare Costs Study Outcomes
The study was a compiled estimate of US healthcare costs from different studies, including the – Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Disease Expenditure Study 2016, Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2017, in association with the Vitality group. These studies considered multiple factors like health condition, age, gender, and modifiable risk factors.
Broadly the modifiable health risks can be classified as –
- Behavioral risks – smoking, tobacco use, and dietary risks
- Metabolic risks – High body-mass index (BMI), high blood pressure
- Environmental risks – air pollution, occupational carcinogens
The study found that modifiable health risks were costing most of the spent healthcare costs. Almost $730 billion was spent in 2016 as healthcare costs on modifiable health risks. The study also showed that more than 25% of all the annual healthcare costs spent in the US are directed towards health conditions that are closely associated with lifestyle choices, most of which can be prevented to some degree.
Francois Millard, Vitality’s chief actuarial officer and an author of the study, said that the healthcare costs in the US alone are double to that of the other developed nations, and so, it is important to identify the modifiable risk factors that contribute to the conditions.
The outcomes of this research were built on the previous IHME research that studied the healthcare expenses linked with 84 modifiable health risk factors.
The study showed that there were 5 most common modifiable risk factors that accounted for most of the healthcare costs – obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, poor nutrition, and smoking.
The other outcomes included –
- The most expensive US medical conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, chronic respiratory disorders, and cancers, were related to modifiable and treatable health risk factors.
- The healthcare costs were mainly driven by 5 risk factors –
- Obesity and High BMI – $238.5 billion
- High Blood Pressure – $179.9 billion
- High Blood Glucose – $171.9 billion
- Poor eating habits and dietary risks – $143.6 billion
- Tobacco and smoking – $130.0 billion
- Healthcare spending was associated with older age, and it increased significantly as the age increased. Almost 44.8% of the risk-attributed healthcare costs were found to be of individuals who were 65 years of age and above.
How Employers Can Reduce Healthcare Costs?
There is a lot of evidence proving exposure to risk factors cause adverse health conditions. The study gave an insight into the various lifestyle risk factors that are associated with most medical conditions, along with a comprehensive analysis of the huge healthcare costs spent on these risks. This gives an idea of how better we can invest our resources and modify our lifestyle habits to manage health risks, for better health and wellness, along with reducing the healthcare costs.
Employers can avoid the healthcare costs that are linked with any underlying health conditions that may affect employee productivity and overall business, by taking the right measures. Investing in corporate wellness programs, especially the ones that offer a well-designed scalable wellness platform or worksite apps built with advanced wellness technology, could turn out to be one of the best investments one can make to grow their business.
A well-planned corporate wellness program can boost employee engagement, establish workplace wellness, reduce healthcare costs, and improve organizational productivity.
Although the study showed that the healthcare costs were higher for older people, who are probably retired and not working under an employer, it still makes sense to start cultivating healthy habits for a healthier old age from a young age itself.
Focusing on improving health and wellness from an early age could help in adopting healthier lifestyle habits, keeping lifestyle-related or modifiable health risk conditions at bay, achieving holistic wellness, and cutting down on billions of dollars spent towards the avoidable healthcare costs, which can be repurposed for better causes.