New study links modifiable health risks to employee health care costs

Ten common risk factors account for more than one-fifth of employer and employee health spending

By Marketing & Business Development staff 

Nov. 29, 2012—In a study examining employee health spending, researchers at Emory University and Truven Health Analytics found that ten modifiable health risk factors were linked to more than one-fifth of employer and employee health spending. The results are published in the November 2012 issue of Health Affairs

Researchers matched health spending for 92,486 employees at seven U.S. companies over three years with a list of common risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, depression, obesity, stress, tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use. They discovered that 22.4 percent of the $366 million spent annually by the seven employers and their employees was attributed to these 10 risk factors, all of which could be addressed by evidence-based health promotion programs. 

Combined, depression and high stress predicted increased costs by 60.6 percent. The research also showed that health care expenses for an employee with depression were approximately 48 percent higher than for an employee without depression. 

Read more about this study in the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program's Good Company Newsletter.