HEALTH

Americans buying supplements even as they tighten their belts

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — More than two-thirds of Americans (71%) reported the economy has not affected their household’s purchasing habits of dietary supplements, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

The CRN study is in line with a special report in AdAge magazine titled “The New Necessities: What Products and Services Can Consumers Not Live Without?,” citing a study by advertising agency Leo Burnett which studies the impact of consumer "wants" versus "needs" in a down economy. In a diagram of wants versus needs, vitamins were listed as something that consumers couldn’t bear to cut back on, which was on par with car insurance, routine car maintenance, mobile phone service and household repairs.

“What’s interesting about our survey findings and those of Leo Burnett is that, even in the midst of trying economic times, dietary supplements are not something consumers are willing to sacrifice," CRN SVP communications Judy Blatman said. "While they certainly are looking for ways to save money, they clearly know the value of using dietary supplements to promote overall health and wellness,” she said. “Given the ongoing debate about health care in America, it’s encouraging to see consumers taking proactive steps, such as incorporating dietary supplements into their health regimen.”

The remaining respondents (29%), however, reported that the economy has impacted their household’s purchasing habits of supplements. The study asked specifically how it affected their purchasing habits, and only 7% of Americans report they have stopped purchasing supplements altogether because of the economy.

Still, overall use of dietary supplements is on the rise with 69% of all Americans reporting that they use supplements, up from 66% in 2010. For the 3-in-10 of consumers whose supplement purchasing habits have been affected by the economy, many are engaging in a variety of money saving tactics, including buying fewer supplements as a means to save money; buying supplements only when they are on sale; and purchasing less expensive supplement brands.

The CRN survey also found that the supplement purchasing habits of those ages 55 years and older were least affected by the trying economy, with 78% of that group indicating as such, followed by consumers ages 18 years to 34 years (70%) and those ages 35 years to 54 years (65%). Gender didn’t appear to be a factor.

The 2011 CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements was conducted Aug. 25 to 29, 2011 by Ipsos Public Affairs and funded by CRN. The survey was conducted online and included a national sample of 2,015 adults ages 18 years and older from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel. The survey has been conducted annually since 2000.


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Wellness works: More than half of employers include wellness program in health package

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — More employers continue to start wellness programs, and the majority of organizations with programs currently in place are looking to invest and expand, according to the "2011 Willis Health and Productivity Survey" by Willis North America’s Human Capital Practice released Tuesday.

According to the survey, 60% of respondents indicated they have some type of wellness program, an increase of 13% from 2010. Additionally, employers are not scaling back — 58% indicated they plan to expand their wellness initiatives with added programs or resources. “Wellness programs continue to evolve, and it is encouraging to see more organizations initiate programs despite economic pressures and continuing challenges in accurately measuring outcomes and results,” stated Jennifer Price, senior health outcomes consultant at Willis Human Capital Practice.

Additional key findings from the survey include:

  • 60% of employers indicated they had some type of wellness program. Of those with a wellness program, 40% reported they have an “intermediate” program in place;

  • The most common types of wellness programs being offered by respondents included physical activity programs (53%), tobacco cessation programs (49%) and weight management programs (45%); and

  • 43% of employers said the leading barrier to measuring success was difficulty in determining the influence of wellness compared with other factors impacting healthcare costs. Insufficient data and not enough staffing/time remain common barriers to measuring success.

The survey represents the findings received from 1,598 employers representing a cross-section of industries, locations and organizational sizes. Forty-four percent of respondents had 1,000 or more employees.

To download the survey click here.


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Study: Obesity trumps smoking when it comes to impact on long-term healthcare costs

BY Michael Johnsen

PHILADELPHIA — Obesity adds more to healthcare costs than smoking does, according to a study published in the March Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Both obesity and smoking were associated with excess costs for health care. Compared with nonsmokers, average health costs were $1,275 higher for smokers. But the incremental costs associated with obesity were even higher: $1,850 more than for normal-weight individuals. For those with morbid obesity, the excess costs were up to $5,500 per year.

The additional costs associated with obesity appeared lower after adjustment for other accompanying health problems. "This may lead to underestimation of the true incremental costs, since obesity is a risk factor for developing chronic conditions," lead author James Moriarty said. "Simultaneous estimates of incremental costs of smoking and obesity show that these factors appear to act as independent multiplicative factors." The study provides new insights into the long-term costs of obesity and smoking, showing that both risk factors lead to persistently higher health costs throughout a 7-year follow-up period.

Moriarty and colleagues of the Mayo Clinic analyzed the incremental costs of smoking and obesity among more than 30,000 Mayo Clinic employees and retirees. All had continuous health insurance coverage between 2001 and 2007.


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