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Nearly Half of American Workers See Wellness Programs As an Important Employee Retention Tool

Employees also say they work harder, perform better and miss fewer days of work

January 14, 2010 (Des Moines, IA) - Forty-five percent of Americans working at small to medium-sized companies said that they would stay at their jobs longer because of employer-sponsored wellness programs, according to the latest Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM.

The survey also found that as a result of workplace wellness programs, 40 percent of workers say they are encouraged to work harder and perform better and 26 percent miss fewer days of work by participating in such programs. As in previous years, 51 percent of workers believe wellness programs are very or somewhat successful in reducing health care costs.

The index, which surveys American workers at growing businesses with 10-1,000 employees, is released by the Principal Financial Group® and conducted by Harris Interactive®. These findings focusing specifically on wellness attitudes and behaviors among American workers were taken from the fourth quarter 2009 Index.

"Wellness programs are clearly a win-win, especially at a time when employers and their employees are more budget conscious," said Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Company, a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group. "Employers benefit by retaining top talent, energizing their employees and reducing the number of sick days. Employees benefit from improved physical health, reduced stress in the workplace and the financial benefits of a healthy lifestyle."

While not all employers offer wellness programs, the survey found nearly half (47 percent) of workers surveyed would participate or do participate in wellness programs to achieve better overall physical health. Other top reasons for participation include:

  • Reduced personal health care costs (30 percent)
  • Greater chance of living longer and healthier lives (30 percent)
  • Receiving employer incentives for participation (28 percent)
  • Reduced stress (28 percent).

Fitness Tops Workers' Wish List as Worries about Changing Health Plans Mount

The survey found most workers are interested in wellness programs that improve their physical fitness, with 27 percent saying they would like in-office fitness facilities, 23 percent citing fitness center discounts and 19 percent expressing interest in weight management programs. For some, these wishes came true last year, as significantly more workers (15 percent) have access to fitness facilities in fourth quarter 2009 compared to 11 percent in fourth quarter 2008.

As workers seek ways to improve their health, they are concerned about potential changes in their health insurance. Significantly more workers, 34 percent, expect their medical plan options to change in 2010 compared with only 23 percent in 2009, the survey found.

"While uncertainty over the future health care system mounts, more Americans are taking charge of their own health by focusing on preventive care and living a healthy lifestyle now to lead a longer, more quality life," said Dukes.


This Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Principal Financial Group between Oct. 20, 2009, and Oct. 30, 2009, among 1,120 employees and 602 retirees. Results were weighted as needed for age by gender, education, race/ethnicity, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

This is one in a series of quarterly studies to identify and track changes in the workplace of small and midsize (growing) businesses. The first Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted in the United States in 2000.

About the Principal Financial Group

The Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®)[1] is a leader in offering businesses, individuals and institutional clients a wide range of financial products and services, including retirement and investment services, life and health insurance, and banking through its diverse family of financial services companies. A member of the Fortune 500, the Principal Financial Group has $280.4 billion in assets under management[2] and serves some 18.6 million customers worldwide from offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. Principal Financial Group, Inc. is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol PFG. For more information, visit

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients - stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit

The Principal Financial Group and The Principal are registered service marks of Principal Financial Services, Inc., a member of the Principal Financial Group.
As of September 30, 2009.

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