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October/November 2015 (vol. 12/3)

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Research Plus

Economic impact of corporate wellness programmes

A systematic review of randomised controlled trials on the economic impact of corporate wellness programmes (CWPs) concludes that only a minority of such programmes have been cost-effective. The trials were carried out in the Netherlands, Finland and the UK. They compared CWPs with care-as-usual or no-intervention alternatives and all included an economic analysis of costs and benefit. Eleven papers met the criteria, five focusing on musculoskeletal disorders, two on mental health and four on multiple risk factors (eg physical inactivity, nutrition, obesity and blood pressure). All the studied interventions involved self-assessment questionnaires, education or training, and advice from a healthcare practitioner; seven included behavioural components, five had targeted exercises and four included changes to the work or work environment. The economic impact was calculated from the direct cost of the intervention (range: €7– €730 per employee per year) and the indirect costs associated with absence and lost productivity. Seven studies identified higher annual net costs for the intervention compared with the control (range: €2–€254 per employee) and four with annual cost savings (range: €2–€94 per employee). Just two studies reported consistent, positive and statistically significant benefits in terms of improved productivity, and better functional and health status. All the studies had methodological weaknesses, notably selection bias (more active people tended to sign up to the interventions) and small study sizes. The authors contrast their findings from Europeantrials with reviews of CWPs carried out in the US, where employers are generally responsible for health insurance costs. 

Journal of Occupational Health 2015; 57: 201–211. doi: 10.1539/joh.14-0217-RA

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Occupational Health at Work October/November 2015 (vol. 12/3) pp33-34