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Wellness participation stagnant despite incentives

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U.S. employers continue to struggle to change the lifestyle behaviors of their employees, according to a new Towers Watson survey.

One significant reason why: Financial incentives don’t appear to be an effective way to get employees to participate in wellness programs.

Driven by ongoing concerns over worker stress (75%), obesity (70%) and sedentary lifestyles (61%), employer commitment to health and productivity remains strong. Towers Watson found that 84% of U.S. employers say their health programs are essential or moderately important. What’s more, 77% of employers expect their commitment to increase over the next three years.

Yet in the past year, only 50% of employees participated in a well-being activity or health management-related program. Individual program participation was even lower, ranging from 48% for health risk and biometric assessments, to 22% for work-site diet/exercise events, to 8% for healthy-sleep or tobacco-cessation programs.

On average, employers offer employees $880 through a range of annual incentives, but employees collect only $365. Two-fifths of all employees don’t earn any incentives at all.

Towers Watson found that many employers do not  assess the impact of their wellness programs, with only 46% measuring return on investment.

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