Aetna, Harvard launch research partnership to identify the roots of well-being

Aetna is teaming up with an Ivy League university to launch a five-year study on the determinants of well-being, and how to enhance it. 

Researchers at both Aetna and Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health will gather data on emotional and physical health, social connectedness, financial security, purpose and character strength. 

The planned research comes as additional research shows poor care for one's self can also cause harm to others. Insurers have devoted significant resources toward member wellness programs, often integrating data analytics and digital tools. But research shows those programs don't often pay immediate dividends

“This project will generate a uniquely rich data set on well-being that could tremendously inform the way we understand public health and well-being,” said Tyler VanderWeele, Ph.D., director of Harvard’s Program on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing and one of the project's leaders, in a statement. 

The researchers will also attempt to find correlations between well-being, population health and productivity. 

To prepare for the project, Aetna is piloting a well-being assessment with a subset of employees. The results will be used to create improvement plans for each participant. 

RELATED: Humana’s wellness program features a small but committed group of wearable users

“Individuals with a strong sense of well-being have been found to be healthier, happier and more productive, have lower healthcare costs and turnover rates, and perform at higher levels,” Kay Mooney, vice president of employee benefits and well-being at Aetna, said. “Through this new initiative, we will develop a customized approach for each individual, allowing us to join employees where they are on their personal well-being journeys.”

The study comes as many Americans, including those in the healthcare sector, are struggling with work-life balance and general stress. 

More than half of U.S. doctors are experiencing burnouts, and nurses who suffer from depression are known to have a greater chance of committing a medical error