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Chronic stress is among the most costly health problems in terms of direct health costs, absenteeism, disability, and performance standards. The Reformed Church in America (RCA) identified stress among its clergy as a major cause of higher-than-average health claims and implemented HeartMath (HM) to help its participants manage stress and increase physiological resilience. The 6-week HM program Revitalize You! was selected for the intervention including the emWave Personal Stress Reliever technology.
From 2006 to 2007, completion of a health risk assessment (HRA) provided eligible clergy with the opportunity to participate in the HM program or a lifestyle management program (LSM). Outcomes for that year were assessed with the Personal Well-being Survey. Of 313 participants who completed the survey, 149 completed the Revitalize You! Program, and 164 completed the LSM. Well-being, stress management, resilience, and emotional vitality were significantly improved in the HM group as compared to the LSM group.
In an analysis of the claims costs data for 2007 and 2008, 144 pastors who had participated in the HM program were compared to 343 non-participants (control group). Adjusted medical costs were reduced by 3.8% for HM participants in comparison with an increase of 9.0% for the control group. For the adjusted pharmacy costs, an increase of 7.9% was found compared with an increase of 13.3% for the control group. Total 2008 savings as a result of the HM program are estimated at $585 per participant, yielding a return on investment of 1.95:1. These findings show that HM stress-reduction and coherence-building techniques can reduce health care costs.