Shame about unhealthy lifestyles means almost half of Brits are regularly lying to present themselves as thinner, fitter, non-smoking teetotallers.
The Norwich Union "Health Shame" study shows four in five Brits believe appearing healthy makes you more attractive, making first dates a hot spot for lifestyle lies - indeed, over a quarter told researchers they feared they would never get a partner if they didn't fib about their health. Two in five also think the truth about their bad habits would put off potential employers.
With over half saying they are embarrassed about their lifestyles, the study found we are so ashamed about our habits that we also regularly fib to friends, family, doctors, and even on forms about:
Nine in 10 say they feel social pressure to appear to be a healthy person, while more than four in five say people are competitive about how healthy they are.
Commenting on the Norwich Union study, psychologist Corinne Sweet says: "People can minimise their bad habits when put on the spot at the doctor's or when registering at the gym because they fear facing the truth about their behaviour, or feel guilty or embarrassed, about what they're really doing to their health. Some people convince themselves they're better than they are, but some downright lie, hoping to get away with it. The problem is being economical with the truth about your bad habits means you won't do anything to improve your health. Plus, you may be sitting on a health time bomb, like heart disease, without realising, until it's too late."
Willie Mowatt, director of protection, Norwich Union, says: "We all want others to think we are healthy but it becomes dangerous when our claims do not match reality. Exaggerating, or omitting to provide information on insurance policy forms can render them void, so it means that you may be paying out money to cover a policy that is invalid and will never pay out. Finding out that you will not receive money from a policy can be distressing as well as financially crippling. So it's vital people disclose their full medical history at the outset of the policy. People who have given up smoking for 12 months or more can even save money if they notify their insurance about this healthy switch."
Private medical insurance: News update: January 2008