Where are Your Clients Spending their Health Care Dollars?

Ten common health risk factors account for 20% of employee health care spending. How can your clients find a solution to these costs?


Stress and depression

In a study examining employee health spending, researchers found that ten modifiable health risk factors were linked to more than one-fifth of employer and employee health spending. The study was reported in the November, 2012 edition of Health Affairs.

Researchers matched health spending for approximately 92,000 employees at seven U.S. companies over three years with a list of common risk factors. The study revealed that 22.4% of the $366 million spent annually by the seven employers and their employees was attributed to these ten risk factors, all of which could be addressed by evidence-based worksite health promotion (wellness) programs.


The common risk factors include:

  • stress
  • depression
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood glucose
  • obesity
  • tobacco use
  • poor diet
  • physical inactivity
  • excessive alcohol use


Seven risk factors that contribute to heart disease (obesity, high stress, tobacco use, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high total cholesterol and physical inactivity) resulted in cost increases of 213.6%, while four combined risk factors for stroke (high stress, tobacco use, high blood pressure, high total cholesterol) were associated with cost increases of 62.1%.

The top five health risk factors that contributed the most per year to excess medical costs were: obesity, physical inactivity, depression, tobacco use and high blood glucose, with obesity contributing the most, at $347 per capita per year.

Research also revealed that the annual medical cost for a depressed employee was 48% more than for a non-depressed employee. Two combined risk factors for psychosocial problems (depression and high stress) predicted cost increases of 60.6%.

The findings support the concept that a well-designed and properly targeted employer-sponsored health prevention program could produce substantial savings for companies.

Through MHN – Health Net’s behavioral health subsidiary – employees can access behavioral health care for depression and other mental health issues. MHN also offers an Employee Assistance Program, with a range of services to help employees cope with stress and make healthier lifestyle choices. For more information about MHN, please call (800) 327-7526 or email productinfo@mhn.com.

To view the Health Affairs article click here.


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Stacy Madden