Grisolia JM, Longo A, Boeri M, Hutchinson G, Kee F. Trading off dietary choices, physical exercise and cardiovascular disease risks. Soc Sci Med. 2013 Sep;93:130-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.05.031.


Despite several decades of decline, cardiovascular diseases are still the most common causes of death in Western societies. Sedentary living and high fat diets contribute to the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases. This paper analyses the trade-offs between lifestyle choices defined in terms of diet, physical activity, cost, and risk of cardiovascular disease that a representative sample of the population of Northern Ireland aged 40-65 are willing to make. Using computer assisted personal interviews, we survey 493 individuals at their homes using a Discrete Choice Experiment (DCE) questionnaire administered between February and July 2011 in Northern Ireland. Unlike most DCE studies for valuing public health programmes, this questionnaire uses a tailored exercise, based on the individuals' baseline choices. A "fat screener" module in the questionnaire links personal cardiovascular disease risk to each specific choice set in terms of dietary constituents. Individuals are informed about their real status quo risk of a fatal cardiovascular event, based on an initial set of health questions. Thus, actual risks, real diet and exercise choices are the elements that constitute the choice task. Our results show that our respondents are willing to pay for reducing mortality risk and, more importantly, are willing to change physical exercise and dietary behaviours. In particular, we find that to improve their lifestyles, overweight and obese people would be more likely to do more physical activity than to change their diets. Therefore, public policies aimed to target obesity and its related illnesses in Northern Ireland should invest public money in promoting physical activity rather than healthier diets.

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