Economist Mike Walden: Do Workplace Wellness Programs Work?

There are many efforts to motivate people to take better care of themselves.  For example, some businesses offer exercise and other programs geared to a healthy lifestyle.   Do we have any evidence these programs work?

  1. the Affordable Care Act provided incentives for wellness programs, and so         since 2010 participation has tripled to 30 million workers
  2. goal is to motivate participants to improve their lifestyles so as to lead to           lower health care costs
  3. but based on the results from one of the first studies of these programs – using programs in Illinois – the evaluation is not optimistic
  4. study found that after one year in the program, participants and non-participants had similar medical expenses
  5. in fact, the study found the program created some resentments among workers, as participants in the wellness programs were paid to join
  6. caution – only one study for one year, so need more analysis