Participants in wellnessprograms were motivated to pay more attention to their health, lostweight and reported fewer sick days. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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Employers' wellness programs are accomplishing theirintended purpose: employees who participate say they are healthier– and more productive at work, according toUnitedHealthcare's 2018 Wellness Check Up Survey.

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More than half (53 percent) of people with access to wellnessprograms say the initiatives have made a positive impact on theirhealth. Of these, 88 percent say they were motivated to pay moreattention to their health; 67 percent say they lost weight; and 56percent reported fewer sick days.

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Perhaps most noteworthy, nearly a third (30 percent) say theirworkplace wellness program helped them detect a disease. The cherry on thetop: 62 percent say their productivity has improved due toparticipating in their employer's program.

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Related: Beyond wellness: Workplace health initiatives thatwork

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“This year's results underscore the importance of workplacewellness programs, which can encourage well-being, prevent diseasebefore it starts and, as a result, help lower medical costs,” saysRebecca Madsen, UnitedHealthcare chief consumer officer. “Byinvesting in wellness programs, employers are in a unique positionto drive engagement and create healthier, happier and moreproductive workforces.”

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Other key findings include:

  • Among employees without access to wellness programs, 73 percentof respondents say they would be interested in such initiatives ifoffered, including 42 percent who are “very interested.” Nearly 85percent of baby boomers want wellness programs, more than any agegroup.
  •  Just 29 percent of all respondents say they arewilling to devote more than an hour each day on health-relatedactivities, such as consistent exercise, researching healthyrecipes or engaging in wellness coaching. Among employees withaccess to a wellness program, 31 percent say they are willing todevote that amount of time each day to their health, compared to 26percent without access to a wellness program.
  • Twenty-seven percent of employees own an activity tracker, up from 13 percentin 2016, according to a previous UnitedHealthcare survey.
  • Most employees (89 percent) say meditation, or mindfulness, has a positiveimpact on a person's overall health and well-being, including 41percent who believe such activities can have a “significantimpact.”
  • Just 16 percent of survey respondents correctly recognized thatas many as 80 percent or more of premature chronic conditions, suchas heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are caused by modifiablelifestyle choices, such as risk factors like smoking or obesity, asopposed to being caused by genetic factors.
  • More than one-third (34 percent) thought between 50 percent and79 percent of premature chronic conditions were caused by lifestylechoices, while 45 percent say genetics were to blame for more than half ofthese diseases.
  • Most respondents (94 percent) say exposure to loud sounds cancause hearing loss, including 50 percent correctly recognizing thatboth one-time exposure to a loud sound and cumulative exposure tomoderately loud sounds can harm hearing health.
  • Nearly 80 percent say hearing loss can have additional impactson a person's health, including increased risk of depression (64percent), higher risk of falls (47 percent) and greater risk ofdementia (35 percent). Less than one in five respondents (16percent) incorrectly say that hearing loss has no connection tooverall health.

 

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.