Tuesday, September 04, 2018

First randomised-controlled trial of an employee “Wellness Programme” suggests they are a waste of money Oh dear….

Jones et al (2018) in their study What Do Workplace Wellness Programmes Do? Took 12000 employees, randomly assigned them into groups, but found no “significant causal effects of treatment on total medical expenditures, health behaviors, employee productivity, or self-reported health status in the first year”.
This is a huge business, around $8 billion in the US alone. Yet it is largely based on articles of faith, not research. This is a welcome study, as it gets rid of the self-selecting nature of the audiences so prevalent in other studies on well-being, which renders them largely useless as the basis of recommendations. 
Do they reduce sickness? No they don’t. Does it results in staying in your job, getting promotion or a pay rise? No, it doesn’t.  Did it reduce medication or hospital visits? No, it didn’t. This was true for almost every one of the 37 features mentioned. The bottom line is that there is no bottom line, no return on investment.
The interesting conclusion by the authors of the study is that wellness programmes, far from helping the intended audience (the obese, smokers etc.) it simply screens out those who are already healthy, yet the burden of cost is borne by all.

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