According to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. and the leading drivers of health care costs. When you look specifically at diabetes costs, cardiovascular disease is the largest contributor to both direct and indirect costs related to the condition.
According to the Willis Towers Watson Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey (2018), employees are feeling the pain. The survey showed that chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease are major drivers in year-over-year increases in employee health benefit costs. Other survey findings include:
- Two-thirds (65%) of employers ranked metabolic syndrome and diabetes as their number one clinical focus area over the next three years
- Only 19% of employers say their current well-being policy is effective at providing the support necessary to reduce the impact of chronic diseases among employees
Heart disease and stroke are the most expensive medical conditions for businesses.
Considerations for employers
Employment in the U.S. has moved away from manual labor and is now largely driven by sedentary professional jobs. Various factors, including improvements in technology, mean fewer reasons for employees to get up from their desks throughout the day. This seems to translate to leisure time as well, where more time is spent watching TV, playing video games or sitting in front of the computer than being physically active. It’s no surprise that sedentary behavior has become an important risk factor in the development of many chronic conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Another sobering fact: more than 90% of American adults with diabetes are overweight or obese and most have other symptoms that increase their risk of cardiovascular disease. Most practice adverse health behaviors (no physical activity, poor quality diet, unmanaged stress, sleep issues). Considering that the majority of adults with type 2 diabetes spend their day at the workplace, there is an opportunity to encourage positive health behaviors, including physical activity, during the work day.
The positive news is that when an individual takes care of their diabetes, they often lower the risk of heart problems as well. This often requires aggressive risk factor management.