Thursday, March 26, 2015

How to Save on Employee Health Care While Helping Your People be Healthy

Whether a small employer offers health care insurance, research out of the Mayo Clinic shows that offering your employees discounted memberships in wellness centers can cut both your and your employees health care costs with an added benefit of weight loss.

According to a new Mayo Clinic study, starting a employee well center or partnering with a health club is an effective and relatively low cost way to help control the costs of health care by encouraging a healthy lifestyle among your workforce.

Boost Employee
Health and Wellness:
Getting to the Heart of the Matter
by Carol A. Vance, Ph.D.

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Significant weight loss and health care savings
Research published this month in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows that members of Mayo Clinic's employee wellness center, the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center (DAHLC), who regularly participated in wellness activities, experienced significant weight loss and health care costs savings.

"A well-planned comprehensive wellness center can engage and retain members which can ultimately lead to important savings in health care costs and reductions in body mass index (BMI)," says lead researcher Bijan Borah, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.

About the study
For the study, the researchers used data from 3,199 members who were continuously enrolled in the DAHLC for three years.  Their attendance was categorized: 1 to 60 visits, 61 to180 visits, 181 to 360 visits and greater than 360 visits.

Weight loss was defined as moving to a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) category based on their BMI at the beginning of the study:
  • normal (BMI <25),
  • overweight (BMI ?25 to <30),
  • obese (BMI 30 to <35), and
  • obesity grade II or higher (BMI 35).
The baseline patient information was collected in the first year and study outcomes were assessed during the three-year follow-up period. Researchers pulled data from multiple institutional sources: the wellness center attendance database, electronic health records and a health care claims database.
Important results from the study include:
Compared to members who visited the Mayo Clinic wellness center 1 to 60 times in the three-year period,
  • members with 181-360 visits were 46 percent more likely to have weight loss, while
  • individuals with more than 360 visits were 72 percent more likely to have weight loss.
"The significant association between health care costs and the frequency of wellness center visits, implying an average cost difference of $4,974 between the top and bottom quartiles of the DAHLC users, is too strong to ignore," says Dr. Borah. "While the use of DAHLC is unlikely the only mediator of either weight control or health care costs, workplaces that are able to offer comprehensive wellness facilities may be capable of achieving similar gains irrespective of individuals' activity pursuits at the facility."

Partnering and incentives offer a benefit to small business
In response to a query from this blog, Dr. Borah replied, “Since small businesses may not be able to afford a captive wellness center, they may consider partnering with local health clubs or YMCAs to provide access to both individual and group fitness activities. Often times, such formal partnering may result in discounted membership fees.

In addition, small businesses may also consider incenting their employees and dependents (say, 20% reduction in monthly membership fees) if they visit the wellness center X number of times each month. Such investments on employee wellness are very likely to result in lower healthcare utilization by employees and dependents, resulting in lower healthcare costs.”

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Money Can't Buy You Happiness; Gratitude Can

Looking for happiness in all the wrong places?

Everyone knows that money can’t buy happiness – yet some men and women invest a lifetime of effort trying to buy their way into a satisfying life despite research and experience clearly showing that people who are materialistic are less satisfied with their standards of living, their relationships and their lives as a whole.

You might ask why pursue a goal that won't make you happy in either the short or the long term? 

With that being the case, James A. Roberts of Baylor University and two colleagues set out to explore the relationship between materialism -- making acquisition of material possessions a central focus of one's life -- and life satisfaction. They wondered if anything could make materialistic people more satisfied with their lot.

Grateful individuals are more satisfied with their lives
They chose to test how gratitude, a positive emotion experiences when someone feels another has intentionally given him or her a valued benefit, might make a materialistic person happier and more satisfied.

To test their theory, the trio analyzed the results of a questionnaire sent to 249 university students. The main results were as expected. "People who pursue happiness through material gain tend to feel worse, and this is related to negative appraisals of their satisfaction with life," they confirmed.

Shiny Objects:
Why We Spend Money
We Don't Have
in Search of Happiness
We Can't Buy
by James A Roberts
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However, their results also demonstrated that gratitude, and to a lesser extent, a positive attitude, both 'buffer' the negative effects of materialism, in effect: grateful individuals who work to keep a positive attitude are more satisfied with their lives.

The team observed: "Individuals high in gratitude showed less of a relationship between materialism and negative feelings about their lives. Conversely, individuals high in materialism showed decreased life satisfaction when either gratitude or positive affect was low."

The trio conclude that the 'pro-social, other-focused nature of gratitude' might help to reduce the 'self-focus' inherent in materialism.  In other words, having feelings of gratitude and working to maintain a positive attitude makes a person less self-centered, helping bring themselves out in a larger world.

Being rich isn't enough to make you happy; you also need to be grateful as well.  As attitudes are something acquired from within - reflecting on how others contribute to your material success or life as a whole will increase anyone's happiness and satisfaction with life.

Related stories:

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Story Source:  Materials provided by Taylor & Francis.  James A. Roberts, Jo-Ann Tsang, Chris Manolis. Looking for happiness in all the wrong places: The moderating role of gratitude and affect in the materialism–life satisfaction relationship. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2015.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Time Management: Why We Feel Busier When Close to Reaching a Goal

Is there any worse time to be interrupted than right now?

Regardless of what we're doing or the nature of the interruption, we often feel as if we have no time to spare at the moment. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers feel busier when they are close to finishing a task or reaching a goal.

"We often decline or delay opportunities because we are just so close to finishing what we are doing right now. Consumers often postpone a visit to a financial planner, skip going to the gym, or put off having a drink with a friend just because they are so close to completing what they are doing at the moment," write authors Ji Hoon Jhang (Oklahoma State University) and John G. Lynch Jr. (University of Colorado).

Across three studies, the authors showed that consumers tolerate interruptions less the closer they are to completing a task or achieving a goal.

Just start your first business?
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In one study, consumers were interrupted and asked to take a one-minute survey while on their way to board a plane. When asked to fill out the survey while waiting for the train to the terminal, more consumers declined and those who did the survey reported that they had less spare time than those who were interrupted after arriving at the gate. Interestingly, those waiting for the train had more time to departure than those at the gate. However, being closer to their immediate goal (boarding the train) made them impatient and more likely to turn down the survey.

When consumers are close to reaching a goal (even one that can easily be paused or delayed), they willingly incur costs (both time and money) to avoid interruptions that could actually benefit them. Consumers should understand that they may be feeling really busy just because they are close to finishing a task and not because they are truly pressed for time.

"It may not be harder today to fit in a visit to a financial planner or a trip to the gym than it will be a month from now. But we delay these valuable interruptions because we feel so busy with often trivial tasks that are almost finished. The irony, of course, is that tomorrow, next week, and next month will present just as many tasks and just as many excuses for putting off 'interruptions' that could improve our well-being," the authors conclude.

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Story Source: Materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. 1.Ji Hoon Jhang, John G. Lynch. Pardon the Interruption: Goal Proximity, Perceived Spare Time, and Impatience. Journal of Consumer Research, 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Getting Rich: You Have a One in Nine Chance of Making It to the Top 1%. If You're White, That Is.

The bad news? Research out of Washington University in St. Louis shows you'll only stay in the top 1% of earners for a year or so.

According to new research, there's a 1 in 9 chance that the typical American (you) will hit the jackpot and join the wealthiest 1 percent for at least one year in her or his working life.
  • Only an elite few get to stay in that economic stratosphere -- and 
  • nonwhite workers remain among those who face far longer odds.
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This, according to Mark Rank, PhD, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at the Brown School and co-author of the influential book 'Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes.'

According to the authors, "Education, marriage and race are among the strongest predictors of top-level income, and in particular the race effect suggests persistent patterns of social inequality."

Relying on data collected regularly since 1968 as part of the University of Michigan's Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this life-course approach analyzed thousands of people from ages 25-60, and examined long stretches of their work lives to track economic movement.

This large-scale, long-term observation provided some surprising results:
  • By age 60, almost 70 percent of the working population will experience at least one year in the top 20 percent of income earners.
  • More than half (53 percent) will have at least one year among the top 10 percent.
  • Slightly more than 11 percent or one in nine will spend at least one year as members of the top 1 percent of income earners.
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While Rank and Hirschl found substantial fluidity among the ranks of America's wealthiest, they also noticed that very few get to stay among the ranks of the super rich for very long.

While 70 percent of the working population may hit the top 20 percent of earners, barely 20 percent will stay for 10 consecutive years or more. At the very top, while 1 in 9 Americans may at some time in their careers be among the top 1 percent, fewer than one in 160 (0.6 percent) will stay for a decade or more.

"Attaining 10 consecutive years at the top is rare, and reflects the idea that only a few persist at this elite level," the authors write. They also found this higher-than-expected fluidity to be a double-edged sword -- while it demonstrates relatively widespread opportunity for top-level income, it also creates a very real insecurity among those who reach those heights.

Lastly, Rank and Hirschl uncovered another "contentious social implication" in their research: When looking at demographic patterns among the people whose data was analyzed,
  • being educated, 
  • being married and 
  • being white are among the strongest predictors of reaching the economic peak.
"It would be misguided to presume that top-level income attainment is solely a function of hard work, diligence and equality of opportunity," they write. "A more nuanced interpretation includes the proposition that access to top-level income is influenced by historic patterns of race and class inequality."

If you have a chance to make the top 1% of incomes during your working life, but can expect to remain there but a year, this clearly indicates you have a strategy in mind to put this wealth aside inside some sort of investment where your good fortune can work for you for the long term.

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Story Source: materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. Thomas A. Hirschl, Mark R. Rank. The Life Course Dynamics of Affluence. PLOS ONE, 2015.