Targeting the predominant health risks in your workforce saves money

Employers can reduce their medical costs and improve productivity by targeting specific health risks among workers, according to a new study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine.

Researchers looked at the top modifiable health risks among employees at a large corporation to determine their health-and productivity- related expenditures. They also predicted potential cost savings from reducing risk prevalence among the employees.

Based on previous studies showing much of the overall health care costs are attributable to certain factors, the researchers examined the following health risks among the employees:

  1. Overweight/ obesity
  2. High blood pressure
  3. High blood glucose
  4. High cholesterol
  5. Inadequate exercise
  6. Poor nutrition
  7. Poor emotional health
  8. High triglycerides
  9. Poor safety practices
  10. Tobacco use
  11.  High alcohol consumption

The research found that obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high triglycerides and inadequate exercise had the greatest impact on total medical care costs. With average obesity exceeding 30% of the make and female population, according to the CDC, and medical costs associated with obesity rising 60% since 1991, it is a growing problem for many employers.

The study also looked at productivity costs, including absenteeism noting that research has estimated annual costs due to lost productivity time at $1392 to $2592 per employee at risk. In this case, depression or poor emotional health was a significant predictor of higher medical costs, as well as absenteeism. In fact, the study concluded that the “strongest potential for (lack of absenteeism) savings lies in reducing emotional health risks” for the unidentified large Midwestern employers.

While risk factors will vary by industry, location, health and wellness programs, etc., according to a SHRM Foundation report Promoting Employee Well-Being, Research suggests that American workplaces will display patterns similar to those listed below. 

Risk/ Condition % of Workers Excess Costs for High Risk Adults
Low intake of fruit and vegetables 76.6% $656
Overweight/ Obesity 63.1% $1351
Physical Inactivity 49.0% $982
High Stress 43.0% $764
High Cholesterol 37.5% $892
High Blood Pressure 28.7% $447
Arthritis 26.0% $617
Cigarette smoking 20.6% $579
Asthma 8.8% $803
Diabetes mellitus 8.3% $1176
Depression 6.4% $804
Migraine headaches 6.0% $723
Alcohol Abuse 5.0% $386

 Understanding the prevalence of these factors among your workforce, along with the costs, is an effective way to identify health challenges and set priorities.

 The Seltzer Group, located in Eastern Pennsylvania, specializes in developing safety, workers compensation, human resources, claims, and risk financing programs. They are a proud member of the Keystone Insurers Group and are nationally recognized for their expertise in workers compensation solutions. The Seltzer Group serves businesses and individuals locally, regionally, and on the national level.

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Targeting the predominant health risks in your workforce saves money was last modified: August 26th, 2014 by Sarah McGorry