One fourth of the dollars and cents employers and their employees are spending on healthcare is tied to unhealthy behavior. That’s the conclusion an exhaustive study published in the November issue of Health Affairs concludes – ten modifiable behaviors consume 22% of all employer/employee costs. Obesity and inactivity, by themselves, lead the bad behavior pack and drive 13% of all costs.
The study, conducted from 2005-2009, was comprised of over 90,000 workers from a variety of industries, regions and wage scales. Using data from health risk assessments (HRAs), it classified study participants into either ‘high-risk’ or ‘low-risk’ categories and then compared the associated healthcare costs for each risk factor between the two groups.
The study’s summation of the financial impact by risk type includes:
When factoring in the 5-7% annual healthcare cost inflation since 2009, total cost burden across all ten risk factors in 2013 would rise from $887 to $1,131 per person per year.
The findings from this study demonstrate the significant opportunity employers can realize to lower their health care expenditures. While certain risk factors have a greater individual affect on health care expenditures (i.e. depression and high blood glucose), the high relative prevalence of obesity and physical inactivity create an even wider opportunity for improvement and resulting financial rewards. (Note: In this study, those classified as high risk in obesity had a BMI over 30 and those classified as high risk in physical inactivity reported exercising less than three days a week.)
For years, employers have focused on addressing chronic conditions as the shortest, most viable path to healthcare cost control. This study illuminates a divergent reality and emerging trend – helping employees shed pounds and hit the gym may provide an even greater net effect on the bottom line. It’s also the one shot we may have of avoiding the even higher prevalence chronic condition rates on the other side of these morphing (and costly) lifestyle risks.
- Jeff Dobro, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, RedBrick Health
Positive News for Healthcare Cost Trend
Employee Benefit News highlights the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, a survey conducted annually by Mercer, which notes that healthcare inflation has hit a 15-year low nationwide. The trend is due, in large part, to companies adopting consumer-directed health plans and further embracing the benefits of wellness programs like those offered by RedBrick Health.
Pay Attention, Energy Drink Consumer
The Los Angeles Times highlights a Food and Drug Administration report possibly linking popular energy drinks to an increasing number of acute illnesses and deaths. While the beverages themselves have not been conclusively linked to illness and death, a growing list of similar reports suggests caution when using energy shots or energy drinks.
If At First You Don’t Succeed…Well…Just Change the Definition of Success
According to this Gallup poll Americans are getting comfortable with their heavier weights. So much so that the definition of our perceived “ideal weight” has increased about 10% since 1991. Unfortunately, weight-related illness and disease tends to disagree.
Exercise Trumps Brain Games in Keeping Our Minds Intact
It turns out that musclehead who kicked sand in the nerd’s face was really just sending him a positive health message. Well…if you follow researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland who find that exercise has more benefit than traditional “mental stimulating activities” on countering the effects of age on our brains.
Women Who Give Up Smoking Extend Lives by 10 Years
“Quitting smoking works. And the sooner, the better.” It’s a theme that warrants repeating – this time by Rachel Huxley, a University of Minnesota professor, in reaction to a study of more than one million women smokers in the United Kingdom.
Smoking Bans Drive Down Heart Attack Rates
And speaking of smoking, the Los Angeles Times highlighted a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association that shows a reduction in heart attacks in locations where public smoking bans have been enacted. Paired with employer support to quit in the form of incentives, supportive coaching and benefits, our communities are moving in the right direction.
Active Design in Offices Gets Workers to Move
The next weapon in the arsenal to defeat obesity may be….architecture?? Workplace configuration – from location of shared devices to prominently featuring stairs, outdoor spaces, and other physical features – increases an individual’s ability to form habits and equates to positive behavior change.