Preventive health care is a powerful tool for keeping medical costs down. Contraception is cheaper than pregnancy and childbirth; a cholesterol test is cheaper than a triple bypass. It is therefore in society’s interest to encourage the use of preventive health care services like cancer screening, especially for elderly people in aging populations. Increased use of preventive health care also leads to healthier, longer-lived people.
Unfortunately, people aren’t particularly good about preventive health care; not even half of all people over the age of 65 in the US are up to date with recommended preventive services. How can we do better?
A recent PNAS study identified one factor that could help: the more that people feel like they have a purpose in life, the more likely they are to use preventive health care. Purpose was also found to be associated with a lower likelihood of needing overnight hospital visits—possibly as a result of improved health care.
Normally, people do not enjoy being forced to do something. People also do not enjoy the guilt that comes with doing something that is bad for them. Surprisingly, these two wrongs seem to make a right: when people are compelled to engage in vices, they feel better than when they freely choose the vice for themselves. According to a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Research, persuading a friend to share a dessert removes the burden of choice from them, reducing their feelings of guilt and making them less conflicted about the decision.