Aon Benefits & Trends Survey: Too few employers focus on key health risks despite positive impact on employees and benefit expenditure

  • 11% of employers have strategies to target cancer risks

  • 9% have strategies to tackle heart condition risks; 21% have strategies for musculoskeletal conditions

  • Mental health is the highest targeted health-related initiative at 41%, but has changed little since 2017

New research from Aon, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions (NYSE: AON), shows that despite mental health being the most common health condition for employers to tackle, only 41% have a formal approach in place, changing little since 2017. Aon’s Benefits and Trends Survey 2019 also highlights that just 11% of employers have strategies to target cancer risks, while 21% target musculoskeletal conditions and only 9% heart and cardio strategies.

For the first time, the Survey highlights the challenge employers have when increasing spend on the early stages of health issues, so that they are in line with expenditure on curing conditions. Just over a quarter (26%) of employers say they focus on providing education, but only 8% have resource for detection. Employers are, however, more focused when it comes to access to treatment (30%) or long-term support (30%).

Mark Witte, principal at Aon, says:

“Given the impact and volatility associated with conditions such as cancer on benefit spend, it is surprising that so few employers have a specific strategy in place to address conditions likely to affect their workforces. However, it is encouraging to see the shift in focus in employers’ strategies in 2019 with 80% now looking to improve awareness and education.

“Our advice is to use data to analyse the issues that are unique to an individual business, then to ensure that full consideration is given to four key stages of wellbeing: prevention and education, detection and early intervention, access to treatment and long term support. The mantra ‘prevention is better than cure’ holds very true in employee benefits programmes.”

Witte added his views on employee mental health:

“It is also surprising that targeted action on mental health by employers remains too low, particularly with ongoing social commentary and compelling emphasis on the scale of the issue. In Aon’s 2017 Health Survey, 43% of employers were looking to evolve their emotional health offering to support mental health issues further - now 41% have a formal approach. Having a defined mental health policy is one of the key recommendations from the 2017 Thriving at Work report, so we expect to see this number increase in the year ahead.”

Aon’s Benefits and Trends Survey, now in its ninth year, is formed from the responses of over 200 employers of all sizes; from less than 100 employees to many thousands, who work across a broad range of sectors and with 75% of them working internationally.

More information can be found in the Benefits and Trends Survey 2019.

Kay Phelps