Download eBook for Free

Full Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.5 MB Best for desktop computers.

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

ePub file 1.7 MB Best for mobile devices.

On desktop computers and some mobile devices, you may need to download an eBook reader to view ePub files. Calibre is an example of a free and open source e-book library management application.

mobi file 0.5 MB Best for Kindle 1-3.

On desktop computers and some mobile devices, you may need to download an eBook reader to view mobi files. Amazon Kindle is the most popular reader for mobi files.

Summary Only

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.1 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Research Questions

  1. How prevalent are workplace wellness programs?
  2. What behaviors do they target?
  3. How well do the programs work?

This paper describes the current state of workplace wellness programs in the United States, including typical program components; assesses current uptake among U.S. employers; reviews the evidence for program impact; and evaluates the current use and the impact of incentives to promote employee engagement. Wellness programs have become very common, as 92 percent of employers with 200 or more employees reported offering them in 2009. Survey data indicate that the most frequently targeted behaviors are exercise (addressed by 63 percent of employers with programs), smoking (60 percent), and weight loss (53 percent). In spite of widespread availability, the actual participation of employees in such programs remains limited. A 2010 survey suggests that typically less than 20 percent of eligible employees participate in wellness interventions.

At this time, it is difficult to definitively assess the impact of workplace wellness on health outcomes and cost. While employer sponsors are mostly satisfied with the results, more than half stated in a recent survey that they did not know their program's return on investment. The peer-reviewed literature, while predominately positive, covers only a tiny percentage of the universe of programs. Evaluating such complex interventions is difficult and poses substantial methodological challenges that can invalidate findings. The use of incentives, such as cash, cash equivalents, and variances in health plan costs, to promote employee engagement, while increasingly popular, remains poorly understood. Future research should focus on finding out which wellness approaches deliver which results under which conditions to give much-needed guidance on best practices.

Key Findings

Ninety-two percent of larger employers offer workplace wellness programs.

  • The most frequently targeted behaviors are exercise, smoking, and weight loss.
  • But typically less than 20% of those eligible participate in the programs.


Information is sorely needed about which approaches produce which results under which conditions.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The work was conducted in RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation.

This report is part of the RAND occasional paper series. RAND occasional papers may include an informed perspective on a timely policy issue, a discussion of new research methodologies, essays, a paper presented at a conference, or a summary of work in progress. All RAND occasional papers undergo rigorous peer review to help ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.