10 statistics that make the case for workplace wellness programs

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report titled Winning with Wellness in 2016 that not only makes the case for the business value of workplace wellness programs, but also provides guidance on running an effective one.

First, it’s important to know how prevalent certain health conditions are, and why it’s likely these chronic conditions are impacting your workers.

Seven facts about health and illness cited in the report:

  • More than one-third of Americans are overweight or obese. (p. 3)
  • As of 2012, 117 million Americans had one or more chronic illnesses, which account for 75 percent of all health care costs in the U.S. (p. 3)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 86 million Americans have prediabetes, and less than 10 percent of them are aware of their condition. (p. 3)
  • Top two chronic health conditions driving health-related costs for employers were depression and obesity, research showed. (p. 3)
  • Employees who scored low on “life satisfaction” stayed home from work 1.25 more days per month than those with higher scores, adding up to about 15 additional days off per year. (p. 15)
  • Approximately 80 percent of people are not ready to take action to change their health behaviors at any given time, according to management research. (p. 9)

Those numbers paint a troubling picture of poor health, chronic conditions and co-morbidities that could affect your workers’ well-being and ability to safely perform their jobs.However, the next wellness statistic holds some good news:

  • If an individual does the following five things, they typically spend 33 percent to 50 percent less on health care costs:
    1. Walking 30 minutes per day
    2. Eating healthy
    3. Not smoking
    4. Having a waist size less than half their height
    5. Drinking alcohol only in moderation (p. 3)

A well-designed workplace wellness program can motivate employees to make healthy choices around these five areas of health. The result could be health care savings, more engaged workers and, possibly, lower risk of injury. That’s why it’s important to know that many employers are investing in wellness programs and have seen positive results from their efforts to build a culture of health.

Three key statistics on wellness program popularity and effectiveness:

  • A large majority (87 percent) of employers are committed to workplace wellness, and 73 percent offer a wellness program, according to a survey. (p. 4) In our own survey of SFM policyholders, one-third of respondents offered a wellness program. This percentage went up to 77 percent for the largest employers.
  • In a survey, more than 60 percent of employers said workplace wellness programs reduced their organizations’ health care costs. (p. 15)
  • Studies show that well-designed wellness programs have a return on investment of $1.50 to $3 per dollar spent over a two- to nine-year timeframe. (p. 16)

More resources to design your workplace wellness program

See the "Winning with Wellness" report for full citations of the research these statistics were drawn from, as well as case studies and details on how you can design your wellness program for maximum effectiveness.

If you’re ready to launch or refresh your organization's program, you’ll want to read our blog post on two key factors for a successful workplace wellness program.

For creative wellness program ideas, download SFM’s Wellness in the workplace CompTalk or see our other blog posts about workplace wellness programs.


This post was originally published on June 16, 2016, and updated on August 15, 2018.

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