Survey finds unequal access to at-work wellness programs

by Lesley Politi on May 14, 2009


Despite widespread interest in employer-provided wellness programs, less than 40 percent of workers have access to programs that address diet, exercise, stress reduction or disease-management, according to a study released Thursday.

Employees most likely to have access earn above-average incomes, work salaried positions and/or have college degrees, according to a survey by Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Seventy percent of workers thought their employers should offer wellness programs.

Workplace programs can develop into an equity issue because lower-income and less-educated employees do not have such services available, said Carl E. Van Horn, director of the center.

Almost half of workers with a college degree have wellness programs at their jobs, but only 25 percent of those with a high school education or less do, the survey found. Also, larger companies, especially those with 250 or more employees, were more likely to provide wellness services. These services included exercise programs or gym discounts, nutrition, stress management or drug or alcohol abuse programs, as well as smoking cessation and weight and disease management.

The survey also asked workers about incentive programs for healthy lifestyles. Almost three-quarters of workers said they agreed with incentives such as health care discounts, days off or extra pay for those taking part in wellness programs.

However, respondents were reluctant to charge fees for those with unhealthy lives or problems with obesity, drug use or smoking. Forty-seven percent of the workers surveyed favored charging smokers extra for health insurance and 43 percent favored charging alcohol abusers more. About a quarter favored charging the very overweight higher health care premiums. More than 90 percent of workers were against charging more for people in other categories, such as older workers, those with emotional problems or genetic conditions predisposing them to a major disease.

The telephone survey of 583 adults working full- or part-time jobs, conducted March 19-29, had a sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percent.


Even the smallest Wellness programs help keep your employees healthy, which keeps them in work, more alert and happy to be there. Giving such programs to your employees will also keep the costs of Health Insurance down. At renewal of your Health Plan, your carrier will look at the usage, illness and current health of your employees, which keep your rate lower.


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