What Do Workplace Wellness Programs Do? Evidence from the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study

Research output: Working paper

Abstract

Workplace wellness programs cover over 50 million workers and are intended to reduce medical spending, increase productivity, and improve well-being. Yet, limited evidence exists to support these claims. We designed and implemented a comprehensive workplace wellness program for a large employer with over 12,000 employees, and randomly assigned program eligibility and financial incentives at the individual level. Over 56 percent of eligible (treatment group) employees participated in the program. We find strong patterns of selection: during the year prior to the intervention, program participants had lower medical expenditures and healthier behaviors than non-participants. However, we do not find significant causal effects of treatment on total medical expenditures, health behaviors, employee productivity, or self-reported health status in the first year. Our 95% confidence intervals rule out 78 percent of previous estimates on medical spending and absenteeism. Our selection results suggest these programs may act as a screening mechanism: even in the absence of any direct savings, differential recruitment or retention of lower-cost participants could result in net savings for employers.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages77
StatePublished - Jan 22 2018

Publication series

NameNBER Working Paper
No.w24229

Fingerprint

Work place
Medical expenditures
Employers
Savings
Employees
Causal effect
Self-reported health
Well-being
Absenteeism
Productivity
Financial incentives
Employee productivity
Confidence interval
Screening
Costs
Workers
Health status

Cite this

What Do Workplace Wellness Programs Do? Evidence from the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study. / Jones, Damon; Molitor, David; Reif, Julian.

2018. (NBER Working Paper; No. w24229).

Research output: Working paper

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