BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to assess the evidence regarding economic evaluations of worksite health promotion programs in Europe.
METHODS: Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, the literature search, study selection, data extraction and quality appraisal were performed independently by two researchers. Full economic evaluations of worksite health promotion programs carried out in a European workplace were included.
RESULTS: From 1728 search results, 39 articles describing 37 studies were included. Regarding methodological quality, 9 studies were rated as strong, 15 as moderate and 15 as weak. Six of the studies fulfilled the minimum standard for health economic evaluations. Worksite health promotion was applied in many different forms for a wide range of settings. Cost-effectiveness, cost-benefit and cost-utility analyses were performed from different perspectives. Effects on health outcomes tended to be small and uncertain. Only 9 out of 21 cost-benefit analyses reported a financial benefit and 10 out of 23 cost-effectiveness analyses concluded that the intervention was cost-effective. Two out of eight cost-utility analyses were found to be cost-effective. Productivity loss accounted for more than 85% of the total costs and thus, was the main cost driver in the analyses.
CONCLUSIONS: Due to considerable heterogeneity, no specific type of intervention could be identified to be particularly effective and the economic value of worksite health promotion remains uncertain. Further studies, investigating comprehensive worksite health promotion programs are needed to provide evidence on their efficiency. Guidelines to perform economic evaluations in the field of worksite health promotion, especially for valuation of productivity loss, are required.