The research and algorithm will be launched at Vitality's global conference chaired by author and anthropologist, Gillian Tett, with keynote speakers Professor Yuval Noah Harari and Discovery / Global Vitality CEO, Adrian Gore, to debate solutions for improving the future health of individuals and populations.
The research highlights an average 15% increase since 1990 in the number of years that people will spend in ill health over their lifetimes, from 8.5 years to 9.8 years, which equates to approximately 18% of the average lifespan. China has seen a significant increase of 19% to 9.1 years, with the UK and USA both seeing a 14% increase in the same timeframe, meaning the average number of years spent in ill health in these nations is close to 12 years and 13.5 years respectively. This outcome follows population health strategies that prioritise treatment over prevention, and greater sophistication of healthcare treatments and technologies that have enabled people to live for longer with disease.
Extending healthy life years will deliver significant economic and social benefits. Currently, the world spends $8.5 trillion or 10% of GDP on healthcare delivery with only 5% going towards prevention services. Reducing the disease burden by just 10% through more preventive policies and individual-level behaviour change could prevent up to 93 million healthy years of life being lost globally each year.
To create greater awareness and accountability at an individual level, the new algorithm, developed by Vitality in collaboration with RAND Europe, will provide individuals with a personalised view of their lifespan and healthspan, as well as bespoke recommendations for improving these measures.
These recommendations consider the individual's age, gender, health status, and current lifestyle choices to ensure that the prescribed actions are suitable and will have the greatest possible impact on health. The model shows that even modest behaviour change can materially reduce health risk over time. For example, an average 30-year-old man could increase his healthspan by 1.5 years just by introducing 20 minutes of vigorous exercise a day. However, if he improved his diet too, he could increase his healthspan by a total of 2.5 years. If he became the healthiest version of himself (by improving all his risk factors to their best levels) he would add nearly six years to his healthspan.
See appendix for an example of age-appropriate lifestyle interventions that people can adopt over the course of their lives.
Adrian Gore, Discovery / Global Vitality Chief Executive, comments: "Incentivising positive lifestyle changes in a world forever changed by the global pandemic can have a profound impact on the health of individuals and reduce the burden on health services. Our global network of leading insurers has a unique opportunity to monetise and incentivise better future health and, given global trends, I believe we have a responsibility to act. Over the last 30 years, scientific change has driven increases in lifespan. Improving healthspan globally will require a greater focus on behaviour change – with benefits for individuals, the economy and society."
In addition, to help overcome the cognitive and behavioural biases that prevent people from taking healthy actions today in support of their long-term health, Vitality engaged with Professor Hal Hershfield at The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to determine what exactly consumers want to know about their futures – and how they would respond to receiving personalised health forecasts. This ground-breaking research explores how to build intrinsic motivation to engage in a healthy lifestyle by speaking to people about their risks in a way they understand and that resonates with them. The research highlights the importance of actionable insights – concrete steps that people can take to improve health and life expectancy.
Professor Hal Hershfield, UCLA Anderson School of Management Professor of Marketing and Behavioral Decision Making, comments: "The disconnect we experience between our current and future selves leads to suboptimal decision-making in areas of finance and health. This emotional divide between selves led us to explore a new question: What are people most interested in knowing about their futures? – since these insights can serve as a useful stepping-stone towards making healthier lifestyle choices. Knowing what information people value on this journey to wellbeing is an important factor in bridging the gulf between a person's current and future self, and potentially towards maximising health over time."
Some of these insights have been incorporated, along with the risk algorithm, to create a world-first public calculator of individual healthspan. Named the Vitality Healthy Futures calculator, it will be available to the public on the Vitality International website:
https://vitality.international/ from today (Tuesday 12th October 2021) for a limited time, with a view to integrating the analysis into Vitality's global member platform in the coming months.
Dr Katie Tryon, Chief Engagement Officer at Vitality, continues: "Everyone is familiar with the concept of lifespan but not many of us are aware we have a healthspan. Improving the health of individuals and populations now requires us to help people understand the behaviours they can adopt at different ages and life stages. The earlier you start, the greater the rewards. For a 30-year-old, relatively unhealthy woman, our research shows that reducing systolic blood pressure to a healthy range and incorporating 20 minutes of vigorous exercise per day can increase her healthspan by over four years. But adopting healthier behaviours at any stage can have a big impact."
Adrian Gore concludes: "For the first time, it's possible to deliver personal recommendations on how people can extend their healthspan and their lifespan. The possibilities for the tool are infinite and could support insurers and healthcare professionals in giving people information on how to increase the number of years they can expect to live in good health – marking a new era of behaviour change."
Notes to Editors:
For more information or interview requests please contact the Global Vitality team at Teneo:
Vitality is the world’s largest behaviour-change platform founded by leading insurer, Discovery Group Limited. Discovery was founded in 1992 as a disruptive health insurer and has developed a disciplined shared-value business model in the form of Vitality, which rewards clients for improving their health, driving and financial behaviour. Vitality uses the power of incentives, data, and behavioural economics to make people healthier and enhance and protect their lives. It has expanded this model into life insurance, short-term insurance, investments and most recently, banking. Today Discovery services more than 20 million clients across the world with partnerships with leading global insurers in Europe, the United States, Canada, Asia-Pacific, China, and Japan.
About the Vitality Healthy Futures Calculator
Vitality has collaborated with Professor Hal Hershfield, an expert in the fields of marketing, behavioural decision-making, and psychology, as well as his team of academics at UCLA, to inform the world-leading risk assessment tool, Healthy Futures. For the first time, users will receive personalised results and recommendations that will be of most interest to them, providing a platform for a new era of positive behaviour change. Accompanying the tool’s novel recommender system, Healthy Futures benefits from a comprehensive technical update to the previous Vitality Age tool, now leveraging the largest source of risk-disease outcomes data in the world. This database, the Global Burden of Disease, used under licence from IHME, comprises of 264 causes of death, 328 diseases and injuries and 84 behavioural, environmental, and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks. In addition, the data has been further augmented with Discovery data comprising millions of life-years to allow for a new and clinically accurate set of questions. Users will now be required to input new health measures relating to their cardiorespiratory fitness, medication adherence, salt intake, sleep, and pre-diagnosed conditions. With a key focus on physical activity, Healthy Futures uses new actuarial modelling to project future changes in metabolic risks over the user’s lifetime. The result is a risk assessment tool which provides individuals with an array of tailored, scientifically formulated future life and health metrics:
- The number of years a user has left to live ("lifespan")
- The number of years a user has left to life in good health ("healthspan")
- The three most likely diseases that are likely to affect the user in future
- The next best actions the user can adopt today to improve their healthspan and lifespan
About RAND Europe
RAND Europe is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to help improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. It realises its mission by undertaking objective, balanced, and relevant research, and analysis; communicating findings to a wide audience, often through publications, many of which are available on its website; working in partnership with clients; and working collaboratively with others. RAND Europe’s work lies on the continuum between that of universities and consultancies, combining the academic rigour of universities and the professional, task-oriented approach of consultancies. It has uniquely broad experience in the fields of health and employment, having worked for a wide range of government and charitable funders globally. RAND Europe is part of the global RAND Corporation. RAND Europe has formal links with the University of Cambridge, for instance through the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research (CCHSR).
About Professor Hal Hershfield, UCLA
Hal Hershfield is a Professor of Marketing, Behavioral Decision Making, and Psychology at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and holds the UCLA Anderson Board of Advisors Term Chair in Management. His research, which sits at the intersection of psychology and economics, examines the ways that people consider their future selves, and how feelings of connection to these distant selves can impact financial decision-making over time. He earned his PhD in psychology from Stanford University. Hershfield publishes in top academic journals and contributes op-eds to leading media platforms such as the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, and the Wall Street Journal.