More 401(k) plan participants started contributing to their plans or increased contributions last year than the previous year, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch study of the company's plan participants.

The 401(k) Wellness Scorecard showed 76 percent of the participants either started or increased contributions, which is a three-point increase over 2012. During the fourth quarter of 2013, 83 percent of participants started or increased contributions, which was a three-year quarterly high.

Health savings account usage also grew significantly in 2013. The number of people holding a Bank of America health savings accounts increased 56 percent last year to about 290,000.

“Thanks to advancements in the fields of medicine and technology, people today are preparing for a retirement that will likely be many years longer than any previous generation,” says David Tyrie, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

On the employers’ side, the number of 401(k) plan sponsors adopting automatic enrollment increased 16 percent in 2013, while the adoption of automatic contribution increases grew 25 percent.

There was a 20 percent increase in the number of plans offering both automatic enrollment and automatic increases, the scorecard showed.

“During the last few years, it has been encouraging to see companies increasingly use intuitive plan design strategies and other services to make their 401(k) plans more accessible and easy to use,” says Kevin Crain, senior relationship executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.