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Nudge theory and motivating people to get active - helping people to help themselves

Posted: Fri, 30 Nov 2018 10:49

Nudge theory and motivating people to get active - helping people to help themselves

A new study reported by the BBC has suggested that the fear of losing something is a greater motivator than the benefit of gaining something the individual would otherwise not have had. As the UK obesity crisis swells, putting increasing pressure on an already-stretched NHS, experts are recommending implementing this 'nudge theory' as a way to change habits and get us all moving.

Personal insurance giant, Vitality, tracked more than 400,000 people in the UK, the USA and in South Africa, who were part of reward schemes, where they could receive commodities like cinema tickets and coffee shop vouchers as a reward for being more active. They compared the impact of these schemes with an incentive which offered the chance to have a free Apple watch, that they would have to pay for if they failed to meet certain exercise targets. The results showed that the fear of losing the opportunity to obtain the gadget for free was a more significant incentive and resulted in more people taking on activity than the comparable rewards scheme.

The term nudge theory was coined by economist Richard Thaler, who takes a keen interest in how the idea of losing something an individual previously had can be an effective motivator. This week, Vitality will hold a conference attended by the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, as well as Mr Thaler, where the findings of the study will be unveiled.

As the obesity crisis deepens across the UK, and here within Norfolk, a focus on preventative health is a key priority in tackling serious illness. Nudge theory, or a version of it, may become a powerful tool in helping people to help themselves.

Tags: BBC, Inactivity, obesity crisis, vitality