How to influence people to make better decisions?
Have you ever wondered why people around you still make choices that do not seem the best for them? Despite being surrounded by numerous advertisements, billboards, smart phone apps or newspaper articles about how important it is to lose weight or why smoking is not the best for one’s health, or why one should save money, it seems there are still millions of people who are still overweight or obese, keep smoking and are in debt.
In the UK, 56% of people are overweight or obese (Eurostat, 2014), household debt is very high (The Money Charity, 2018), 15% of people still smoke (The Guardian, 2017) and over 75,000 people still drink and drive (ROSPA, 2017). Of course, the reasons behind these are numerous and complex, but one of the questions is why, despite access to information, it is so hard to change people’s behaviour?
The UK government’s initiatives to use the Behaviour Change Communication have produced positive results: fewer people smoke now than 20 years ago, fewer people drink and drive, but some areas still need more work, and yet some other challenge appear and need to be addressed. Is communication enough to change people’s behaviour or do we need other initiatives (such as regulations) to change behaviours?
Do social marketers use the wrong type of messages (for example, anti-smoking campaigns that do not work), do governments develop schemes that do not reward people to make better choices (for example, would paying for healthcare for issues related to self-inflicted obesity make people take better care of their health – but look at America, they are one of the most overweight/obese nations in the world).
Of course, the reasons behind these are numerous and complex, but one of the questions is why, despite access to information it is so hard to change people’s behaviour; and would stricter government control of availability of some products and services help people make better choices? ‘Information overload’ and placing responsibility for all choices on the shoulders of individuals may lead to individuals not being able (for example, due to lack of resources such as time) to access and understand the relevant information. Perhaps, the government could be more proactive in regulating the market in a way that consumers are not overburdened with the choices that they have to make, for example by not allowing some products to be offered in the market?
Eurostat. (2014). Overweight and obesity – BMI statistics. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Overweight_and_obesity_-_BMI_statistics
ROSPA. (2017). Road Safety Factsheet. Retrieved January 15 2018, from https://www.rospa.com/rospaweb/docs/advice-services/road-safety/drivers/drinking-and-driving.pdf
The Guardian. (2017). Smoking rate in UK falls to second-lowest in Europe. Retrieved January 15 2018, from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jun/15/smoking-rate-in-uk-falls-to-second-lowest-in-europe
The Money Charity. (2018). The Money Statistics January 2018. Retrieved January 15 2018, from http://themoneycharity.org.uk/money-statistics/