The Pandemic Body: More Fast Food, Alcohol and Smoking, Less Exercise and Difficult Sleep

MediKeeper Health Risk Assessment Insights Reveal an Epidemic of Unhealthy Behaviors Emerging During the Pandemic: 1 in 5 Workers Admit to Being “Out of Control with Food” in 2021


SAN DIEGO, April 25, 2021​​To enable HR departments to prepare for employees returning to the office, MediKeeper has released part two of its 2021 Workplace Wellness Benchmark Report, a comprehensive analysis of the state of wellness and wellbeing indicators among today’s workforce focusing on personal health, including diet, alcohol use, exercise, sleep and smoking. These data represent anonymized insights from employees who opted to complete MediKeeper’s National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) certified Health Risk Assessment (HRA). MediKeeper provides workplace wellness technology used by more than 11 million people at work that helps them make smarter health-related decisions.

While the SARS-CoV-2 virus and associated COVID-19 disease began to run rampant across the world in 2020, and continues today, employees faced the uncharted territory of working from home, either in isolation (for those living alone) or in crowded spaces with family members or roommates also stuck at home. Daily habits and routines like going to the gym, eating healthy food at work, and walking to and from transit stations in urban areas suddenly vanished.

MediKeeper HRA data show that 8.7% of employees reported they were worried about their health or an injury in 2020. However, this number grew by 18.2% in the first months of 2021, based upon the experience of employees who completed an HRA between January 1 to March 11, 2021. In addition, an alarming 22.1% of employees admitted to being “out of control with food” in 2021, a new question asked in the HRA this year to gauge the impact of remote work on employees. This metric equates to the 16.1% increase in employees who eat at a fast food restaurant more than 3 times a week in 2021.

Human Resources Positioned to Help Employees Regain Healthy Behaviors or Start Fresh

“I am saddened but not surprised that these data show an epidemic of unhealthy choices by employees during the pandemic, who may have lost access to the gym and the company-sponsored perks like yoga classes and subsidized healthy meals in the cafeteria,” said Dr. Tyler Amell, Chief Health Officer at MediKeeper. “While more workers are concerned about their health, they may need guidance and structure to get them on the right path of making better, sustainable choices when it comes to their health, with a goal of long term behavior change. HR leaders have a golden opportunity to help bring about the changes employees need by providing wellness services and programs for a healthier lifestyle in mind, body and spirit.”

Mental health, or brain health solutions, go hand in hand with physical health solutions and should be on the menu for employers looking to support their people as we move into the next phase of the pandemic.  Dr. Amell suggests that HR administrators help ensure their employees have quick access to programs and services such as the following:

  • Workplace wellness challenges make getting healthy fun

Leverage a wellness portal’s “wellness challenges” feature to offer group challenges and employee-to-employee challenges. HR leaders can select from popular pre-built challenges for physical activity (such as tracking steps, setting mileage goals, etc.), emotional wellness (mindfulness, work/life balance), nutrition (balanced diet, staying hydrated, increased intake of fruits/vegetables, fiber up, etc.), reducing alcohol use, improving sleep habits and much more. Flexible wellness portals also make it easy to create new challenges or customize a pre-built challenge to best meet the needs of specific or local populations.

  • Leverage employee Health Risk Assessment data to gauge population health

HR administrators should consider requiring members to update their Health Risk Assessment – in a wellness portal or as a standalone product – to gauge the health concerns and struggles members may be feeling. Administrators can use the HRA results to make evidence-informed decisions about wellness/wellbeing programming.

  • Use HRA-based triggered content

Having an updated HRA means employees will be able to receive personalized content based on their current state of physical and mental health, including advice on healthy eating, smoking cessation, understanding nutrition basics, stress management and being more active. When they access their wellness portal, meaningful guidance and insight will be at their disposal, addressing the concerns and issues they have indicated in their HRA, which provides a tailored experience that will help keep them engaged and motivated to take charge of their health goals.

  • Incorporate digital coaching

Through a wellness portal, HR admins can offer employees access to digital coaching services so they can learn how to live a healthier lifestyle. Amell suggests that HR administrators help ensure their employees have quick access to programs and services. Popular programs include how to make smart food choices, understanding nutrition basics, tips for improving sleep, guidance for controlling alcohol use, and how to find joy in exercising and being active.

  • Offer coaching services

Coaching services can be triggered based on HRA data so that employees get alerted to health coaches with the right services, whether it’s about a desire to stop smoking or feeling anxiety about returning to the office.

LifeSpeak, which delivers best-in-class expert-led mental health and wellbeing education, is an embedded solution within the MediKeeper platform. The integrated programming is delivered as curated, micro-learning videos from the world’s foremost experts. Danny Weill, Vice President of Sales and Partnerships at LifeSpeak noted, “Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen a 33% increase in usage of LifeSpeak education, with sleep, loneliness, and resilience being some of most accessed content types. Now more than ever, LifeSpeak, in a trusted partnership with MediKeeper, is proud to support people through these uncertain times with educational resources that empower them to  take control of their health and wellbeing.”

Personal Health Trends  in 2021

MediKeeper’s HRA data provide key health indicators for personal health and wellness, including anxiety, stress and depression, which was assessed individually in part one of the Workplace Wellness Benchmark report, and therefore is not included here. Below are highlights of the current state of employee health in 2021:

Alcohol Usage:

  • 70% increase in men who drink more than 14 standard drinks per week or more than 4 drinks in a day
  • 9% increase in women who drink more than 7 standard drinks per week or more than 2 drinks in one day


  • 4% decrease in employees who exercise 30 minutes per day at least five days per week or exercise at least 20 minutes per day at a strenuous level 3 or more times per week
  • Top three most popular forms of exercise are: walking (7.4% decrease in 2021), running (6.8% increase) and weight lifting (17.4% increase)

Food Choices:

  • 19% increase in “regularly eat red meat 4 or more times a week”
  • 20% decrease in “eat 9 or more servings of fruits and vegetables”


  • In 2020, 10.7% of employees said they have difficulty sleeping, and by 2021 that number skyrocketed to 13.8%, a 29.1% increase.


  • 22% increase in people who smoke this year vs. last (includes both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes)
  • While more people smoke cigarettes today, e-cigarette usage is growing significantly faster that the “analog” version
    • 6% increase in smoking cigarettes this year
    • 5% increase in the use of e-cigarettes

These data from MediKeeper’s best-in-class HRA support HR departments that are using or planning to use wellness programming to assist the transition from remote to office work. To learn more about wellness trends and programming post-COVID-19, please visit:

About the MediKeeper Workplace Wellness Benchmark Report

The inaugural MediKeeper Workplace Wellness Benchmark Report is based on anonymized insights from a small, representative sample  of employees who opted to complete a National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) certified Health Risk Assessment (HRA) offered by their employer. For this report, MediKeeper drew on responses from 67,118 employees who completed the HRA in 2020 to establish the baseline. Percent change data in 2021 and 2021-specific data is based on 10,540 HRA responses from employees who opted to complete an HRA between January 1 to March 11, 2021.

The HRA covers a range of topics, including Mental Health and Stress, Employment/Jobs, Personal Health/Wellness and Personal Relationships/Connections.

About MediKeeper

MediKeeper offers a comprehensive suite of health management tools designed for employer groups, health plans, brokers, TPA’s, and wellness companies. The company’s Wellness Portal and Health Risk Assessment tools enable healthcare consumers to make smarter health-related decisions. Founded in 2003, MediKeeper technology gathers and analyzes disparate health data. By providing de-identified population reporting in a seamlessly integrated portal, MediKeeper’s customers are better able to manage their population’s health and make smarter wellness investments. Visit us at Follow our blog at and on Twitter @medikeeper.

Media Contacts:

Jill Reed or Peter Brooks, Sift Communications for MediKeeper,

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