36% of adults believe that an individual’s healthcare treatment should be affected by whether their lifestyle is healthy or unhealthy, according to new research by Benenden Healthcare.

The research reveals that 29% believe that those who lead healthier lives should receive priority treatment over those with less healthy lifestyles.  50% of those over 65 say that people’s lifestyles should affect the healthcare they receive, but only 22% of 18-24 year olds believe this.

30% feel that people who lead unhealthy lives should pay a premium, or top up fee, to receive NHS treatment.  The groups most in favour of an “unhealthy premium” are those aged 25-34, and those over 65, of whom 38% believe that a premium should be paid.

When asked about smoking, 39% agreed that non-smokers should have priority over smokers when being treated for conditions such as heart disease or cancer.  This rose to 50% for the 18-24 year old age group.  45-54 year olds were least likely to agree, with 31% of this group saying that non-smokers should receive priority treatment. Across the UK, the Welsh are the most likely to agree with the Scots the least likely- as Scotland is still has many smokers.

37% said that people who live healthy lifestyles, and use the NHS less as a result, should be offered tax rebates.   This concept was most popular with those aged 25-34, of whom 49% agreed, compared to 30% of the over 55s. 

Lawrence Christensen from Benenden Healthcare says “There has been a lot of talk in political circles about nudge theory  - using relatively small measures to make significant shifts in the way people behave.  These findings show that a lot of people would welcome changes to the way treatment is offered in the NHS as a way of encouraging people to adopt a healthier lifestyle. With some dire warnings over the projected levels of obesity in the coming years, we believe that it will require imaginative ways to effectively meet the healthcare needs of the population in the future.  However, this research shows that many people understand this and are open to some radical ideas.”

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