Brian C. Bell

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Health, Physical Education and Recreation


Health care expenditures in the United States have continued to climb at an alarming rate. In 1982, health care expenditures accounted for nearly $322.4 billion of the gross national product (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1982). Health care expenditures are expected to consume nearly 12 percent of the nation's economic output by the year 1990, reaching nearly $756 billion in projected costs (Cullen and Towe, 1983). Although health care costs have climbed at an annual rate of less than 10 percent, these costs have continued to increase in the private sector, which currently absorbs one-fourth of the nation's health care expenses (Chenoweth, 1987).

With the costs of health care rising, many corporations have been searching for strategies which will help reduce their medical expenses. Several companies have shown interest in the development of physical fitness programs as a means of improving employee health and reducing health care costs. Some corporations have invested large sums of money towards comprehensive health and fitness programs in an effort to improve employee morale and productivity, while decreasing absenteeism, turnover, disability, and health insurance claims. These companies have anticipated decreases in absenteeism and health care utilization among employee participants as a result of improved health and well-being. Although economic benefits from improved job attitudes and morale have been found in some studies (Fielding, 1979; Rhodes and Dunwoody, 1980), there is currently little evidence to support the theory that monetary benefits can be obtained from the implementation of work-site fitness programs (Fielding, 1982).

Several studies have attempted to measure the effectiveness of health and fitness programs on medical expenses and absenteeism (Shephard, Corey, Renzland and Cox, 1982; Bowne, Russell, Morgan, Optenburg and Clarke, 1984; Gibbs, Mulraney, Henes and Reed, 1985; Baun, Bernacki and Tsai, 1986), however many have failed to control for factors which could alter results, namely selection bias, noncomparable control groups, unmonitored fitness program participation, few males, and short study periods (Elias and Murphy, 1987). As a result, further investigation into the effects of employee health and fitness programs appears warranted. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a work-site fitness program on absenteeism and health care costs between participants and nonparticipants of a recently developed employee fitness center.


A Thesis Project Presented to the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Science University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1988 Brian C. Bell.

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