90% of absences from work in Finland are short-term sickness absences, which affects both the individual employee's health and the whole company’s productivity and finances. A study on the City of Helsinki employees found that 30% of these sick-leave costs are purely due to unhealthy lifestyles, which can be easily saved by providing employees with the right health tools.

It’s no news that sickness not only affects an individual but puts a considerable burden on society, healthcare systems as well as businesses. On average, the OECD countries — including the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, major EU nations like Germany, France, and all the Nordic countries — spend around 2.1% of their GDP on sickness benefits.

In addition to work-related risk factors (such as accidents), sickness absences are directly related to unhealthy lifestyle choices among employees, such as low physical activity, poor diet, sleep quality, heavy alcohol consumption, and smoking. In fact, recent research by the Department of Public Health (University of Helsinki) on Finnish employees found that as much as 30% of sick-leave costs are purely due to unhealthy lifestyles. The study also found that employees with unhealthy behaviors have more sickness absences, rendering higher costs for employers.

Main findings: the direct cost of an unhealthy lifestyle among employees

The study found that unhealthy lifestyle choices lead to higher sickness absences among employees. Based on this, the researchers calculated its direct cost (in terms of salary) to employers. They found:

  • 30% of sick-leave costs are purely due to unhealthy lifestyles like lack of exercise, poor diet, sleep quality, heavy alcohol consumption, and smoking.
  • Employees with an unhealthy lifestyle cost the employer 154% more than an employee with a healthy lifestyle. The participants were scored out of 5. A point was given for each of the five unhealthy lifestyle practices — low physical activity, heavy alcohol consumption, smoking, unhealthy diet (not having enough fruits and vegetables), and poor sleep. For example, if a person slept poorly, they got a risk score of 1; if they checked all the 5 unhealthy boxes, they received a risk score of 5. The study found that those employees who had a risk score of 3, that is, they checked 3 or more unhealthy lifestyle boxes, cost the employer 154% more than an employee who had a risk score of 0.
  • Lack of physical activity, smoking, and poor sleep are the biggest issues. Physically inactive employees cost the employer 125% more, while employees who smoke cost the employer 140% more. Similarly, an employee with poor sleep cost the employer 135% more than an employee with healthy sleep.

Read the full research paper here. 

What this means: the real cost of an unhealthy lifestyle on employers

The study found that while the number of employees with 3 or more unhealthy behaviors is less (9.5%), over 20% of the employees had 2 unhealthy behaviors.

Monetarily, for a large company with around 40,000 employees, this would mean a direct additional cost of €17.6 million over ten years, or, nearly €2 million every year: and this is just salaries.

In this study, the researchers only looked at the direct cost (salary) of short-term (up to 10 days) sickness absence due to unhealthy behaviors. The true costs are obviously much higher. Sick leaves decrease productivity, cause delays in production, delivery, and cancellations — all much higher cost for the employers than the mere salary costs calculated in this study.

Solution: health tools to improve employees’ health and lifestyle

The good news is that there is an easy solution — providing employees with the right tools that measure their health and help them understand it better and keep them motivated to improve their daily lifestyle.

This is where Livit by Nightingale Health comes in. The service uses advanced technology to summarise an employee's health into easy-to-understand results that highlight how daily choices affect their body. However, knowing and measuring aren’t enough. Behavioral change is key. Therefore, the Livit app comes with everyday health tips and advice for each health result to help make easy lifestyle changes that improve long-term health.

With Livit by Nightingale Health, companies can help their employees:

  • Get a detailed view of their health from blood and understand how their lifestyle affects their body.
  • Receive feedback on daily lifestyle choices to track and improve their health.
  • Prevent diseases by noticing changes in their health early on.
  • Stay motivated with regular follow-ups.

All this makes Livit the ultimate new health tracking tool for employees to get a detailed view of their health and actionable insights to improve everyday lifestyle and prevent illnesses.