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What has healthy eating actually got to do with insurance?

Published: 24/10/2022

What traditional life and health insurance overlooks is that insurers can play an important role in making society healthier and preventing claims from occurring in the first place.

Most of us are aware of the benefits of healthy eating – both physically and mentally – and why it’s a good thing.

However, the focus of traditional life and health insurance is to be there for people when they get sick (or worse, die). But not on also preventing claims from happening in the first place.

What this overlooks, though, is that the majority (almost 90%) of preventable illnesses – which make up around half of the UK disease burden – are solely to do with lifestyle choices1.

Staggeringly, the global health burden can be reduced by a whopping 37% just by improving dietary patterns and increasing physical activity levels alone. Even a 10% reduction in the UK would prevent the loss of 729,000 healthy years of life a year2.

Aside from the obvious benefits of this to society, it also means insurers – with the help of advisers – have the opportunity to help people live longer, healthier lives. Not just support them when something bad happens.

Healthy choices are connected.

We all know that making healthy decisions is not always easy. It helps to give people a nudge.

Plus, there is strong evidence that it’s connected. By engaging with one healthy behaviour, it often spurs on another. According to one study3, exercise tends to be accompanied with positive changes in food choices, and an overall improvement in appetite control.

For example, it found that engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity is associated with a lower wanting of higher fat foods and a higher liking of low-fat, low-energy food. The opposite was also found to be true, with inactive individuals having a greater desire for high energy foods as well as a greater susceptibility to food cravings.

But can insurance really help?

In truth, yes. Our member data proves it. The Vitality Programme is the world’s largest behaviour change programme linked to insurance. It works by giving people access to the tools, knowledge and incentives they need to improve their health. It has been proven to help drive increased levels of physical activity through the use of Active Rewards, which were introduced in 2014.

Following the introduction of Apple Watch in 2016, we analysed, in conjunction with RAND, the impact of Active Rewards on levels of physical activity. We found that Active Rewards help to drive increased levels of physical activity. Especially when combined with Apple Watch, which sees members having on average 3.6 more active days per month and high-risk members having 5.7 more active days per month4.

More than just physical activity.

As a result of the Programme’s construct, it has been shown to help improve a wide range of key lifestyle behaviours, including diet, as well as overall life expectancy. We analysed the probability of improving key lifestyle factors year-on-year because of participation in the Vitality Programme. The sample included Vitality members who took part in Britain’s Healthiest Workplace each year over the study period. The study found that those engaging in the Vitality Programme were amongst other things, 39% more likely to improve their diet compared to the general population5.

So healthy eating does have a lot to do with it…

By analysing the number of portions of fruit and vegetables our members have consumed over a five-year period from 2017-2021, we can see that the proportion of members following a healthy diet, based on their consumption of fruit and vegetables, disclosed in their annual health review has increased by 25% since 2017.

And not only that. In addition to making members aware, we actively encourage our members to eat more healthily through our healthy food benefit (available to members with qualifying plans6). When members get active, they can get up to 25% cashback on healthy food purchased. Members with a qualifying health and life plan can get up to 40% cashback when they get active. Since launching this in 2016, this has been another way of driving positive food choices through the Vitality Programme.

In addition, when your clients get active they can also get up to £10 off anything from Mindful Chef every week and we also recently added the option to get access to Second Nature, which offers a personalised healthy weight journey (with additional points available as an extra incentive for eligible members) for just £20 a year.

So, there you have it. Healthy eating – and making healthy choices – has a lot to do with insurance (if it has prevention at its core).

Proportion of members meeting their fruit and veg intake over time

Read our report on protective benefits of a healthy diet.

Our latest report discusses the current state of nutritional habits and delves into why a healthy diet matters to your clients. The report also highlights the importance of lifestyle management and how engaging with the Vitality Programme can help change your client's behaviour and get healthier by giving them access to the tools, knowledge and incentives to improve their health.
Explore the report

Vitality is the world’s largest behaviour change programme linked to insurance. It helps people get healthier by giving them the tools, knowledge and access to incentives to improve their health. Data shows that those engaging in the Vitality Programme were 39% more likely to improve their diet compared to the general population. Find out how your client can get access to a range of rewards and partners to help them lead a healthier life.

Where to next?

  • Three ways a healthy diet can benefit your client

    From good gut-health to boosting immunity and supporting mental health, there are a number of reasons why encouraging your client to eat healthily is a good idea.

  • Seven reasons to choose Optimiser and why now

    Given that many clients will be on a tighter budget than usual right now, allowing them to pay up to 40% less for their life cover1 is just one of the benefits of Optimiser.

  • Insights Hub

    Our Insights Hub brings you our range of adviser content - from video series to articles & blogs.

1 Global Burden of Disease database; Williamson, E., Walker, A. J., Bhaskaran, K. J., Bacon, S., Bates, C., Morton, C. E., ... & Cockburn, J. (2020)
2 Evolution of Healthspan and Lifespan, 1990-2019, Global and UK, Healthspan report, 2021
3 Beaulieu, K., Oustric, P. & Finlayson, G. The Impact of Physical Activity on Food Reward: Review and Conceptual Synthesis of Evidence from Observational, Acute, and Chronic Exercise Training Studies. Curr Obes Rep 9, 63–80 (2020).
4 Incentives and physical activity, RAND Corporation, Nov 2018 
5 Vitality analysis based on Britain’s Healthiest Workplace data 2018-2019
6 Subject to a maximum spend limit, terms and conditions