It’s no surprise that unhealthy employees cost employers big bucks. But a new workforce wellness index shows that the unhealthy behaviors of the U.S. workforce cost employers an average of $670 per employee annually.

The Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index gauges six behavioral factors – body-mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, tobacco use and alcohol use – to track the collective health of working Americans who have employer-sponsored health insurance.

An index score of 100 represents the ideal state where there are no behavioral risk factors present in the population and, therefore, no health costs attributed to health risks. From 2005 to 2009, the index fell 2% from 86.4 to 84.4.

In 2009, about 14% of direct health care costs for the employed, privately insured population were associated with the six risk factors, according to the analysis. This amounts to $670 per employee, with $400 of the overall cost attributed to body-mass index. Elevated blood sugar was the second most significant risk factor, accounting for nearly $150 per employee per year.

“While the U.S. trends are not good, those employers who have begun measuring these health risk behaviors in their workforce and implementing programs to address them appear to be seeing some improvement,” says Julie Shook, director of product management for Thomson Reuters’ health care business.

Employee Benefit News and Thomson Reuters are hosting a webinar on Wednesday, April 27 to discuss the results of the workforce wellness index and its implications for employers. Speakers include Ron Goetzel, vice president of health care and science payer research with Thomson Reuters and Gary Pickens, chief research officer with Thomson Reuters. Click here to register.

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