Research: Does wellness in the workplace work?

Research wordResearch word

Employee health program can be an effective means to increase healthy habits.  

Employee Wellness program

Employee Wellness program

The good news is that a 2019 published study looked to evaluate whether workplace wellness program resembling programs offered by US employers might be the answer[1]. The randomized trial was implemented at 160 worksites from January 2015 through June 2016 and involved nearly 33,000 subjects.  The subjects were randomized to either a test worksites with a wellness program or control worksites received no wellness program. The researchers collected data from surveys and biometrics to evaluate the success of the study.  

Exercise with Kettlebells

Exercise with Kettlebells

Researchers found that worksites with the wellness program had an 8.3-percentage point higher rate of employees who reported engaging in regular exercise and a 13.6-percentage point higher rate of employees who reported actively managing their weight.   Unfortunately, there were no significant differences in other self-reported health, clinical markers of improved health, health care spending or utilization, absenteeism, or job performance after 18 months.   

The bottom line:  Employees who worked at worksites with a wellness program reported significantly greater rates of some positive health behaviors compared with those without.  Although there were no significant effects on clinical measures of health, health care spending and utilization, or employment outcomes after 18 months, this study is promising, and further research is warranted.  Although these findings may make some businesses relook at the financial investment in these programs, I would recommend that they continue them.  Eighteen months do not do justice to a lifetime of benefit from wellness programs.


Z. Song and K. Baicker, “Effect of a Workplace Wellness Program on Employee Health and Economic Outcomes,” JAMA, vol. 321, no. 15, p. 1491, Apr. 2019 [Online]. Available: 10.1001/jama.2019.3307″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer“>
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.