Americans Embracing the Power of Wellness, Survey Shows: The Principal Financial Group underwrites 2007 EBRI Health Confidence Survey focused on health care and wellness

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A growing number of Americans are embracing wellness programs in the workplace to battle rising health care costs, according to the 2007 EBRI Health Confidence Survey (HCS). The survey was released today by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald and Associates Inc. and was underwritten by the Principal Financial Group. As employers increasingly encourage workers to adopt healthier lifestyles within the workplace, more than four out of five Americans (82 percent) say they have a positive view toward wellness programs. Another 76 percent of Americans agree employers who offer wellness programs are showing concern for their workers.

Increasing the frequency of participation in employer-sponsored wellness programs and educating Americans about how they can take control of their own health will help reduce the overall impact on their financial well-being.

    "The results show the tide is turning as Americans realize changing their behavior and adopting a healthier lifestyle is an effective cure for rising health care costs," said Jerry Ripperger, national practice leader of consumer health for the Principal Financial Group. "We're seeing a sharp increase in the number of workers taking advantage of wellness programs, which typically include health screenings and programs for exercise, weight loss, stress management, smoking cessation, and more."

"The Power of Wellness"

Americans were also asked about employer health plans that offer a reduction on health insurance premiums. Survey respondents were told workers under this plan would be required to take a physical. If no illnesses or at-risk behaviors were identified, the worker would qualify for a reduction on insurance premiums. Workers with an identified illness or at-risk behavior would also qualify if they agree to take steps to manage their illness or lower their health risk. Nearly three-fourths of Americans (72 percent) indicate they would be comfortable with such a program. Eighty-three percent of Americans say a wellness program would help them develop a healthier lifestyle.

Nearly three-fourths of Americans (70 percent) indicate they would be likely to participate in an incentive program if it reduced their health insurance premium by 5 percent, with 77 percent indicating they would participate if it reduced their premium by 10 percent.

"Wellness programs are rapidly expanding as employers recognize that not only is providing a comprehensive program simply the right thing to do for employees; it's key to driving down healthcare costs. In fact, we're seeing an average return of between $2 to $3 for every $1 spent among employers who have implemented a wellness program," noted Ripperger. "Employees reap the rewards by benefiting from a healthier lifestyle and lower premiums, and employers reduce costs through higher productivity, less employee turnover, and lower absenteeism -- it's a win-win."

Listen to a podcast featuring Jerry Ripperger on wellness for small businesses.

Another Look at Rising Costs

For the first time since 2004, the survey revealed that an increased number of Americans are making more cost-conscious decisions regarding their health care. Two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) indicate they are talking to doctors more carefully about treatment options and costs, up from 57 percent in 2006. More than three-fourths of respondents (81 percent) say they are trying to take better care of themselves. Rising health care costs have also led Americans to choose generic drugs, when available (78 percent), visit the doctor only for more serious conditions or symptoms (64 percent), and switch to over-the-counter drugs (42 percent).

"Rising health care costs are clearly weighing on the minds of Americans as they search for various ways to help shoulder the burden," said Ripperger. "Increasing the frequency of participation in employer-sponsored wellness programs and educating Americans about how they can take control of their own health will help reduce the overall impact on their financial well-being."

Reforming the System

Americans continue to give the U.S. health care system low ratings. Thirty percent of Americans rate the system as poor, nearly double since 1998. Not surprisingly, 71 percent of Americans indicate the U.S. health care system needs to be completely overhauled or needs major changes.

Yet more than half (55 percent) of Americans say they are extremely or very satisfied with the quality of their own health plan. One-third (33 percent) are somewhat satisfied, and 12 percent are not satisfied.

About the EBRI Health Confidence Survey

The 2007 Health Confidence Survey was conducted within the United States between May 17 and June 10, through 20 minute telephone interviews with 1,000 individuals age 21 and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. All questions are available on the EBRI Web site, http://www.ebri.org. EBRI is a private, nonprofit organization committed exclusively to data dissemination and education on economic security and employee benefits; it does not lobby or take positions on legislation.

About The Principal Financial Group

The Principal Financial Group(R) (The Principal(R)) 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 and national network of financial professionals. A member of the Fortune 500, the Principal Financial Group has $282.1 billion in assets under management and serves some 18.1 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 http://www.principal.com.

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Rhonda Clark-Leyda
Principal Financial Group
515-247-663
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