Dec 23 2008
(Adapted from The Health Promotion First Act prepared by David Anderson, Ph.D., StayWell Health Management)
Employee Lifestyles Impact Employee Health
• Approximately 40% of all deaths in the United States are premature (at least 900,000 deaths each year) and are due to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, misuse of alcohol and drugs, and accidents. Other contributors to early death include genetic predisposition (30%), social circumstances (15%), poor access to quality health care (10%), and environmental exposures (5%).
• Unhealthy lifestyle is the primary factor to the six leading causes of death in the U.S. – heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory diseases, accidents, and diabetes – which collectively account for over 70% of all deaths.
• People with healthier lifestyles live an average of 6 to 9 years longer, postpone disability by 9 years and compress disability into fewer years at the end of life.
• The prevalence of obesity among American adults rose to 30% in 1999-2000, a 33% increase from a decade earlier, and the prevalence of diabetes also rose by 33% during approximately the same period (1990 to 1998).
• About two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, 55% do not get enough physical activity, 26% are completely inactive,10 and only 25% eat recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables If diet/physical activity patterns continue worsening at their current rate, these behaviors will soon surpass tobacco use as contributors to mortality.
• Among young people, the prevalence of overweight has more than quadrupled in the past 20 years to 16%, daily participation in high school physical education classes has dropped from 42% in 1991 to 28% in 2003, more than 60% eat too much saturated fat, and almost 80% do not eat recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.
• Lifestyle diseases disproportionately affect women, racial and ethnic minorities, the poor and seniors:
• The prevalence of diabetes among African Americans is about 70% higher than among white Americans, and the prevalence among Hispanics is nearly double that for white Americans.
• Women comprise more than half of the people who die each year of cardiovascular disease.
• Chronic conditions significantly limit daily activity for 35% of persons over 65 years of age.
Financial Impact of Lifestyle
• It is estimated that lifestyle-related chronic diseases account for 70% of the nation’s health care costs, which translates to over 11% of the entire U.S. gross domestic product.
• Two broad-based scientific reviews identified 83 peer-reviewed studies reporting that people with unhealthy habits have higher health costs.
• Research conservatively estimates that high health risks (high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc) account for at least 25% of total health costs.
• Recently published research indicates a direct relationship between modifiable lifestyle risks and lower worker productivity, and relevant data suggest that the costs to businesses in lost productivity due to poor employee health may be substantially more than the direct health and disability costs.
• Unhealthy lifestyles often lead to chronic disease, many of which cannot be cured and require years or decades of expensive treatments. Below are estimated annual costs of selected unhealthy lifestyles and chronic diseases including obesity, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, stress, and inactivity.
Corporate Health Promotion Initiatives Improve Health and Yield Major Savings
• Comprehensive scientific reviews identified 378 peer-reviewed studies showing that Corporate Health Promotion Initiatives improve health knowledge, health behaviors, and underlying health conditions.
• Research studies have demonstrated that lifestyle modification may often be more effective and cost-effective than health intervention in decreasing morbidity and mortality.
• Several scientific reviews indicate that Corporate Health Promotion Initiatives reduce health costs and rates of absenteeism and produce a positive return on investment. The most definitive review of financial impact reported that:
• 18 studies indicated that these Corporate Health Promotion Initiatives reduce health costs, and 14 studies indicated that they decrease rates of absenteeism costs.
• 13 studies that calculated benefit/cost ratios all showed the savings from these Corporate Health Promotion Initiatives are much greater than their cost, with health cost savings averaging $3.48 and the rates of absenteeism savings averaging $5.82 per dollar invested in the Corporate Health Promotion Programs.
• Medical costs are expected to exceed 16 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005 and to grow at 7.2 percent each year through 2015, when health expenditures will account for 20 percent of GDP:
• Per capita health costs in the U.S. are the highest in the world and more than double the median for OECD nations, yet the United States ranks 26th in terms of healthy life expectancy.
• Medicaid is the second largest item in the majority of state budgets, and its portion of the total budgets is increasing each year.
• Increasing health costs for U.S. businesses continue to outpace general inflation, averaging 12 percent per year for the past 10 years. This trend is causing a tremendous financial hardship on U.S. businesses.