Workplace health promotion programs have the potential to reduce average worker health costs by 18 percent—and even more for older workers, according to a report by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

For a study published in the January Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers combined data from two major studies to estimate the possible savings in medical costs from reductions in key health risk factors. The study focused on seven risk factors or medical conditions typically addressed by workplace wellness programs: physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable intake, smoking, overweight/obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and alcohol abuse.

The results suggest that—if all heightened risk factors could be reduced to their “theoretical minimums”—total medical care expenses per person for all working age adults would be reduced by about $650, or 18 percent. The possible savings increased with age—up to 28 percent for older working adults and retirees.

Researchers say that the findings support the more recent widespread interest of wellness programs by employers, adding that potential savings are obvious.

“Medical care savings from workplace wellness programs will increase with time given that more eligible wellness program members participate, effective control of heightened risk factors improves, and greater risk reversal can be achieved,” the report says.