RAND Europe, an independent research institute, has published results of a new health behaviour study that found  financial incentives in Vitality’s Shared-Value Insurance model combined with Apple Watch has led to a sustained 34% increase in people’s physical activity levels.

The study examined the effect of Vitality Active Rewards with Apple Watch on participants’ long-term physical activity levels. Over 400,000 people in South Africa, the UK and the US took part in the study.

“This landmark study contributes to a deeper understanding of how people can be incentivised to live fitter and healthier lives. The significance for individuals, the insurance industry and wider society is profound,” said Discovery Chief Executive and Vitality Founder, Adrian Gore.

“For more than 20 years, Vitality has taken a shared-value approach to health improvement by creating interventions that change people’s behaviour for the better. Our innovative use of Apple Watch opens the way to a proper understanding of how people can be incentivised to live fitter and healthier lives – and how we are leading the way in transforming how people are insured,” continued Gore.

The Vitality Active Rewards programme makes use of a comprehensive behavioural science toolkit, encompassing short and long-term incentives such as loss aversion and pre-commitment. Short-term incentives create a sense of immediacy, with members rewarded on a weekly basis for reaching their weekly goals. For a minimal upfront activation fee, members can reduce their monthly Apple Watch payments to zero by meeting their physical activity goals, including daily exercise and active calorie burn. The two components reinforce each other and create an ecosystem of behaviour change.

The RAND Europe study found that activity increased across the full spectrum of Vitality participants, regardless of health status, age or gender. “At-risk” participants with a high Body Mass Index (BMI), although less likely to take up the benefit, showed greater improvements in activity than other groups, with increases in activity of 200% in the US, 160% in the UK and 109% in South Africa.

South Africa saw the largest increase in high-intensity activity days of 71%, followed by the US at 52%, and 37% in the UK. With these sustained increases in activity, Vitality estimates that within a year, participants with Active Rewards with Apple Watch achieved numerous health benefits, including improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and cardiorespiratory fitness along with lowered healthcare costs.

“Our research suggests that incentivising physical activity can lead to better activity levels and the Vitality Active Rewards with Apple Watch benefit bears that finding out. Given RAND Europe’s fact-driven, evidenced-based research and analysis, we are pleased that our work has helped to deepen understanding of what works in designing health and wellness programmes,” said President of RAND Europe, Hans Pung.

“The rigorous study encompassed large sample sizes over long periods and captured people’s activity levels before and after the introduction of incentives linked to Apple Watch, while controlling for population characteristics. It has major implications for health policy around the world,” concluded Pung.

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