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Workplace Wellness Programs Significantly Reduce Health Risks

Two-year study from The Principal shows greatest impact from personalized coaching

Lee Dukes“Anecdotally we knew wellness programs were improving health and in some cases saving lives, but we wanted to quantify it,” said Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Company

September 11, 2012 (Des Moines, Iowa) – Participants in comprehensive workplace wellness programs achieve a significant reduction in health risks in as little as 18 months according to a new study conducted by the Principal Financial Group®. The study shows the greatest impact among participants who also received personalized health coaching.

Almost all wellness program participants showed some improvement in health risk status, but for individuals participating in one-on-one health coaching, more than one in three (34%) moved from a high risk status to a lower risk category. This shift significantly decreases their likelihood to develop diabetes, heart attack or stroke. The percent of participants considered low-risk increased by more than 11%.

“Anecdotally we knew wellness programs were improving health and in some cases saving lives, but we wanted to quantify it,” said Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Company, a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group. “By using an evidence-based approach, we’ve taken an in-depth look at how wellness programs work in reducing individual health risk factors. Comprehensive wellness programs that include personalized health coaching demonstrate the most significant improvements.”

The study, which tracked 12,000 adults enrolled in Principal wellness programs over a two-year period, monitored several key indicators of metabolic syndrome including blood pressure, waist circumference, triglycerides and tobacco use. Metabolic syndrome, often a precursor to diabetes, heart attack or stroke, was used to identify participants at highest risk and those were referred into a health coaching program. Improvement or movement into a lower risk category was defined as no longer having metabolic syndrome.

“These individuals are much more likely to develop a chronic health condition, which will lead to higher medical costs over time,” noted Dukes. “Employers have limited benefit dollars and health care costs are often their most pressing concern, so employers need to look for the greatest return on their investment. These results reinforce the benefits to employers who offer comprehensive wellness programs.”

Personalized Wellness Coaching

Health coaches tailor information to wellness program participants’ individual health goals. Through one-on-one interactions, ongoing activities and education, participants are encouraged to take small steps toward individual success. As a result, the participants stick with the program long enough to experience personal benefits such as losing weight, becoming tobacco free and overall feeling better.

Ongoing studies of this group will continue to evaluate the impact of engagement in other activities throughout the year and to measure the impact of health care claims costs over time.

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An in-depth analysis was used to complete a risk trend study of more than 12,000 adults participating in a comprehensive wellness program during an 18-month period from 2010-2012. The net change in risk status was determined by evaluating the difference of the net positive movement and net negative movement among individuals and dividing by the difference.

About the Principal Financial Group

The Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®)[1] is a global investment management leader including retirement services, insurance solutions and asset management. The Principal offers businesses, individuals and institutional clients a wide range of financial products and services, including retirement, asset management and insurance through its diverse family of financial services companies. Founded in 1879 and a member of the FORTUNE 500®, the Principal Financial Group has $367.1 billion in assets under management[2] and serves some 18.2 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

“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 June 30, 2012.

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