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Andrew McCurrie: What is the cost of not living a healthy lifestyle?

By Andrew McCurrie, Actuary and Director of Technical Marketing at Vitality

Published: 11/05/2021
How significant is the impact of serious illness on COVID-19 complications and can a behaviour change programme like Vitality help members reduce their risk?
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I often get asked for insights and statistics on the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle, but I don’t think that I am being asked the correct question.

Within the UK, 29%1 of adults are obese, 23%2 have high blood pressure and 36%3 do less that the recommended level of physical activity. Giving these quite alarming numbers and the pressing need to improve them, the question therefore shouldn’t be about the benefits of changing lifestyle behaviours but the cost of not changing them.

The importance of this question has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic where underlying health conditions and unhealthy lifestyles have been identified as key factors which increase individuals’ risk of developing serious illness due to COVID-19.

But how significant is the impact, and can a behaviour change programme like Vitality help members to reduce their risk? A recent report from South Africa investigated the link between a member’s level of Vitality engagement and their risk of dying upon contracting COVID-194.

The results were unequivocal, after isolating from all other factors, policyholders not on Vitality were five times more likely to pass away if they contracted COVID-19 compared to a highly engaged Vitality member.

While the insights above are based on Vitality members in South Africa, the findings are highly relevant in a UK context. The relationship between COVID-19 risk and Vitality engagement has also been observed in the UK, with a 27% reduction in the risk of complications amongst Vitality members with high physical activity levels (a key component of the Vitality Programme).

The insights represent a small fraction of the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle but their results shine a clear light on the importance of healthy lifestyles and the key role that financial advisers have as part of their product recommendations.

Find out more about the Vitality Programme and how it can benefit your clients.

1. Baker C. Obesity statistics. House of Commons Briefing paper No. 3336, 2019.
2. NHS Digital. Health Survey for England 2018.
3. Guthold R, Stevens GA, Riley LM, et al. Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1.9 million participants. Lancet Glob Health 2018:6(10):1077-1086.
4. Discovery South Africa Covid-19 Special report March 2021

Where to next?

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    Businesses need to be more proactive in promoting healthier lifestyles among their employees to reduce the incidence of more serious health problems later down the line.

  •  How Vitality engagement can reduce COVID death risk 

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