One in three believe unhealthy lifestyles should affect healthcare treatment

26th July 2011

More than a third of UK adults (36%) believe that an individual’s healthcare treatment should be affected by whether their lifestyle is healthy or unhealthy, according to new research released today. 

With the future funding of the NHS a topic of national debate, Benenden Healthcare Society commissioned research to examine whether prioritising treatment could be used to ‘nudge’ people to make positive changes in their behaviour and ultimately save money.

The research reveals that 29% of people believe that those who lead healthier lives should receive priority treatment over those with less healthy lifestyles.  50% of those over 65 say that people’s lifestyles should affect the healthcare they receive, whereas only 22% of 18-24 year olds believe this.

Premium or top-up?

Three in ten people (30%) feel that people who lead unhealthy lives should pay a premium, or top up fee, to receive NHS treatment.  The groups most in favour of an “unhealthy premium” are those aged 25-34, and those over 65, of whom 38% believe that a premium should be paid.

Priority for non-smokers?

When asked about smoking, 39% of people agreed that non-smokers should have priority over smokers when being treated for conditions such as heart disease or cancer.  This rose to 50% for the 18-24 year old age group.  45-54 year olds were least likely to agree, with 31% of this group saying that non-smokers should receive priority treatment. Across the UK, the Welsh are the most likely to agree (47%), with the Scots the least likely (33%).

Tax incentives for healthy lifestyles

37% of those questioned said that people who live healthy lifestyles, and use the NHS less as a result, should be offered tax rebates.   This concept was most popular with those aged 25-34, of whom 49% agreed, compared to 30% of the over 55s.  The appeal of tax rebates varied between regions – 45% of those in London believe they should be offered, whilst this drops to 26% in Eastern England.

Lawrence Christensen, from Benenden Healthcare Society the leading mutual health & wellbeing organisation, says the research shows that people are open to financial incentives being used to help change people’s behaviour.  He said: “There has been a lot of talk in political circles about ‘nudge’ theory  - using relatively small measures to make significant shifts in the way people behave.  These findings show that a lot of people would welcome changes to the way treatment is offered in the NHS as a way of encouraging people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

“With some dire warnings over the projected levels of obesity in the coming years, for example, we believe that it will require imaginative ways to effectively meet the healthcare needs of the population in the future.  However, this research shows that many people across the UK understand this and are open to some radical ideas.”

Read the full report 'Public attitudes to funding healthcare and allocating health resources'.

 

 

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