MINNETONKA, Minn. (June 08, 2017) — 

Most employees with access to workplace wellness programs say they have made a positive impact on their health, even though a majority are unwilling to devote more than one hour per day to health-related activities such as consistent exercise, according to a new survey.

These are some of the findings from this year's UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey: "Wellness Check Up," which examines employees' opinions about employer-sponsored wellness programs. The nationwide survey's key findings include:

  • Most employees say they are interested in wellness programs. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of all employees say they are interested in wellness programs, while 59 percent of people with access to such programs said the initiatives have made a positive impact on their health. A majority (85 percent) of respondents with access to a wellness program say they are "somewhat aware" or "very aware" of the details of the program.
  • Yet many employees underestimate available wellness incentives. Nearly two thirds (64 percent) of respondents underestimate potential wellness-related financial incentives available through employer programs, which average $742 per employee per year, according to a recent study by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH).
  • Some employees are willing to spend more than one hour per day on wellness. More than one third (36 percent) said they are willing to devote more than an hour per day on health-related activities, such as consistent exercise, researching healthy food or recipes, or engaging in wellness coaching. However, about two thirds (63 percent) of respondents are unwilling to devote at least an hour per day to improving their health.
  • More employees own activity trackers. Twenty-five percent of employees own an activity tracker, nearly double the 13 percent in 2016, according to a previous UnitedHealthcare survey.

"By engaging employees in their health, workplace wellness programs may be able to encourage well-being, prevent disease before it starts and, as result, help lower medical costs," said Rebecca Madsen, UnitedHealthcare chief consumer officer. "This survey underscores the value of employer-sponsored wellness programs and the importance of making them accessible to more employees."

More U.S. companies are investing in wellness programs, with 70 percent of employers offering such initiatives, up from 58 percent in 2008, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The goal of these programs is to create healthier, more productive employees and reduce health care costs.

Upsurge in Interest in Activity Trackers

Many survey respondents expressed interest in activity trackers as a resource to help improve their health. Among employees without an activity tracker, 62 percent said they would be interested in using a wearable fitness tracker as part of a workplace wellness program. According to technology consultancy Endeavors Partners, companies nationwide are expected by 2018 to incorporate more than 13 million fitness tracking devices into their wellness programs as a way to help reduce obesity and sedentary time among employees.

Even so, 71 percent of employees underestimate the distance necessary to achieve 10,000 daily steps, which roughly equates to five miles – the target some health experts recommend to prevent a sedentary lifestyle. About one quarter (28 percent) of respondents thought 10,000 steps equates to two miles; 26 percent estimated three miles; and 17 percent said four miles. One in five employees (21 percent) correctly estimated five miles as the necessary distance to achieve 10,000 steps.

Many Workers Underestimate Wellness Incentives, Some Unwilling to Devote Time to Health

The value of corporate wellness incentives has increased to $742 per employee per year, up from $521 in 2013, according to the NBGH study. That study found that fewer than half of eligible employees earned the full incentive, however, with workers leaving millions of dollars of unclaimed rewards.

The UnitedHealthcare survey found that 41 percent of full-time workers estimated the average financial incentive available through an employer-sponsored program to be between $0 to $300 per employee per year, while 24 percent thought it was between $301 and $600. About one in 10 (11 percent) selected the correct range of $601 and $900. Employees favored health insurance premium reductions (77 percent), grocery store vouchers or discounts (64 percent), and Health Savings Account (HSA) credits (62 percent) among the most attractive incentives.

Despite the available incentives, some employees are unwilling to invest much time each day to improve their health and well-being. For instance, 15 percent of employees said they would devote less than an hour each week to pursuing healthy activities such as consistent exercise or researching healthy foods, while nearly one-quarter (24 percent) would commit to one to three hours. About one in five (19 percent) respondents would devote nine hours or more per week to improving their health. 

For complete survey results, click here.

About the Survey

The UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey: "Wellness Check Up" was conducted May 4 to 7 and May 11 to 14, 2017, using ORC International's Telephone CARAVAN omnibus among a landline and cell phone probability sample of 609 adults ages 18 and older and employed full time in the continental United States. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, military service members, retirees and their families, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with 1 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @myUHC on Twitter.

Tags: UnitedHealthcarePress Release, Incentives