Desire for Good Health Trumps Financial Incentives as Top Motivator for Employees Participating in Workplace Wellness Programs

 While one might anticipate that poor health takes a financial toll on employees, new findings released today from MetLife’s 7th Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study help define what those financial consequences can be, both short- and long-term.  The MetLife study found that working Americans who say they are in fair or poor health are also more likely to be in worse financial shape than their healthier counterparts.  For example:

  • 59% of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor say they live paycheck to paycheck, compared to 34% of people in very good or excellent health.
  • 70% of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor are very concerned about making ends meet, compared to 52% of people in very good or excellent health.
  • 76% of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor are very concerned about affording health care in retirement, compared to 57% of people in very good or excellent health.

“Fortunately, employers are increasingly recognizing the value to all stakeholders of a healthy workforce and viewing wellness programs as an investment  to help address their business objectives of employee retention and productivity while simultaneously controlling costs,” says Ronald Leopold, M.D., vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife.  “While medical coverage is an important component of a financial safety net, health insurance is not health assurance.  In fact, the MetLife study found that employees who assess their health as fair or poor have medical coverage through the workplace at nearly the same rates of those with very good or excellent health.”

The number of employers offering wellness programs in the workplace is growing, but at a slower rate than one might anticipate given that the vast majority of U.S. employers (94%) agree that wellness programs can be at least somewhat effective in reducing medical costs. Only one-third (33%) of employers offer a wellness program to their employees, up from about one-fourth (27%) in 2005.  In addition, only a little more than half (57%) of larger employers, those with 500 or more employees, have implemented a workplace wellness program, although this is an increase from 46% in 2005.

Employees appear to appreciate the value wellness programs provide. Nearly half of all employees (46%) say they avail themselves of their employer’s wellness program when offered. The top motivator for employees’ participation?  They want “good health,” cited by nearly three-quarters of wellness program participants.  Interestingly, the second greatest motivating factor varies by gender – men cite the financial incentives their employer provides while women say they want to minimize medical expenses.

“Good health is its own reward, and a strong inducement for employees to take advantage of workplace wellness programs,” adds Dr. Leopold.

Study Methodology
MetLife’s 7th annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends surveyed employers and employees at two different points in time, August 2008 and November 2008, to assess how employer and employee attitudes toward employee benefits may have changed from prior years, and, more specifically, how they may have been affected by the changing economic climate.   Both sets of research interviews were fielded by Gfk Custom Research North America.  More than 1,500 interviews were conducted with benefits decision-makers at companies with two or more employees, representing a mix of industries and geographic regions, and more than 1,300 interviews were conducted with full-time employees, age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees.  The 7th annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends is available at along with a wealth of other related benefits resources.

About MetLife

MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance, employee benefits and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions.  Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force).  The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions.   For more information, visit


Karen Eldred
Joseph Madden