Just one more reason to jump on the wellness bandwagon: Participants in comprehensive workplace wellness programs achieve a significant reduction in health risks in as little as 18 months according to a new study conducted by the Principal Financial Group. The study shows the greatest impact among participants who also received personalized health coaching.
Almost all wellness program participants showed some improvement in health risk status, but for individuals participating in one-on-one health coaching, more than one in three (34 percent) moved from a high risk status to a lower risk category. This shift significantly decreases their likelihood to develop diabetes, heart attack or stroke. The percent of participants considered low-risk increased by more than 11 percent.
“Anecdotally we knew wellness programs were improving health and in some cases saving lives, but we wanted to quantify it,” says Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Company, a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group. “By using an evidence-based approach, we’ve taken an in-depth look at how wellness programs work in reducing individual health risk factors. Comprehensive wellness programs that include personalized health coaching demonstrate the most significant improvements.”
The study—which tracked 12,000 adults enrolled in Principal wellness programs over a two-year period—monitored several key indicators of metabolic syndrome including blood pressure, waist circumference, triglycerides and tobacco use. Metabolic syndrome—often a precursor to diabetes, heart attack or stroke—was used to identify participants at highest risk and those were referred into a health coaching program. Improvement or movement into a lower risk category was defined as no longer having metabolic syndrome.
“These individuals are much more likely to develop a chronic health condition, which will lead to higher medical costs over time,” Dukes says. “Employers have limited benefit dollars and health care costs are often their most pressing concern, so employers need to look for the greatest return on their investment. These results reinforce the benefits to employers who offer comprehensive wellness programs.”