Why do people make bad health decisions?
Understanding why people don’t seek better health……. an Employer’s opportunity 2/3
This is part 2 of 3 entries in which we raise questions and look at solutions for every day health mysteries such as why we choose to eat a chocolate bar, not get up early to exercise, not go to the Doctors and generally make bad decisions when it comes to our health. We all do it, some of us more than others, but why?
There is a Behavioural Economic theory called Present Bias, which refers to the tendency of people to give stronger weight to payoffs that are closer to the present time when considering trade-offs between two future moments.
Behavioral Economics is the study of the brain and what influences how we make decisions regarding our health. We know from research that we don’t make rational decisions regarding our health, however our behaviour is still very predictable and we can use this information in a number of ways.
Present Bias is better explained by eating a donut. A sweet, puffy and delicious treat that pulls at the taste buds of any diet warrior. If you don’t like donuts, replace that with another vice food (Pizza, Chocolate or even Whiskey). We know these foods are not good for our health which may affect us in the future, but we would much rather receive the pleasure of the treat now and not worry about the future events.
Another example from research is many of us would rather receive $100 today, than wait a month and receive $110. Present events are weighted much more heavily than future ones.
Our last blog looked at the Health care wedge, where many consumers have not had to pay money for health consultations in the past and are very reluctant to invest in it today. We explained this is an opportunity for employers, by educating the workforce and investing in a positive health culture you will see dramatic results in employees overall health, improved productivity and reduced MSK claims.
Present bias introduces another interesting challenge, we underinvest in our health (e.g. by eating too much, exercising too little, or failing to buy private health insurance) since the rewards from such investments occur in the future. This lack of health investment due to present bias is another strategy that employers can tap in to. At Safe & Healthy we firmly believe in educational strategies and unique incentives, which challenge these ideas ensuring that current healthy behaviors will pay off now and in the future. Whether this is taking the extra time to get the lifting device to perform the task, or choosing the healthy option at the canteen, education is a cornerstone.
Technology is already here!!
One piece of research suggests that behavioural change could be achieved by helping people connect with their future selves. In a recent study, people who saw an age-progressed avatar of themselves were more likely to undertake the positive health choice now as they can see the future consequence of not investing in that now.
What can you do
- If you have notice boards or an internal newsletter, please get in touch with us and let us know your specific needs or area of health focus. EG: A brewery in Brisbane raised sleep and fatigue as a focus heading into Winter 2017, we created some Sleep & Fatigue awareness posters and marketing collateral for print and online education.
- Use influences to reward positive health decision making in the workplace. Some common examples you may have seen is cheaper healthy options in the canteen or local eateries, or step challenge group programs. Your conversation needs to start with what health outcome is required and then you can design your intervention around that.
- Many employers are seeing the benefit of an onsite health clinic lead by a Physiotherapist. The onsite Physiotherapist manages the injuries and RTW of employees and the organisation is delivered their ROI. Wellness programs, then engage specific employees with specific health targets. With the onsite clinic these programs are affordable and measurable.
Keep an eye out for my next blog article where I take a close look at the use of health incentives in the workplace, and how this behavioural economic theory also impacts how we approach our own health.
Yours in health,
Safe & Healthy