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December 11, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Offer Benefits? Don’t Forget Wellness

Filed under: Benefits — Tags: , , , , , , , 8:41 am

For each of the last 7 years, MetLife has conducted a huge employee benefits trends study, and data from 2008, including responses from over 1,500 benefits decision makers and 1,300 employees, have just been released. The global company, which provides insurance, employee benefits, and financial services, stressed wellness programs in its report on the study results.

Financial and physical health intertwined. Some of the statistics offered are surprising and disturbing:

  • 59% of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor say they live paycheck to paycheck, compared to 34% of people in very good or excellent health.
  • 70% of people who rate their health as fair or poor are very concerned about making ends meet, compared to 52% of people whose health is very good or excellent.
  • 76% of people who see their health as fair or poor are very concerned about affording health care in retirement, compared to 57% of those in very good or excellent health.

Interestingly, however, the employees who assess their health as fair or poor have healthcare coverage through their employers at nearly the same rate as those who say their health is very good or excellent. So the connection between poor health and tight finances is in no way limited to people without healthcare insurance.

How well are wellness programs? Given that 94% of surveyed employers agree that wellness programs can be at least somewhat effective in reducing medical costs, MetLife researchers expressed some disappointment that the number of employers offering such programs is growing so slowly. Only one-third (33%) of respondents offered wellness programs in late 2008, up from about one-fourth (27%) in late 2005. And, even among organizations employing more than 500 people, the portion offering such programs is only 57%, up from 46% in 2005.

The MetLife study showed that nearly half of employees participate in programs offered by their employers. But here’s the payoff: They don’t do so primarily to earn incentives or avoid penalties but simply to maintain good health. The older they are, the more likely they value the health benefits, while incentives are more important to the youngest workers.

Source: (12/10/2009)


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