The role of time and risk preferences in adherence to physician advice on health behaviour change

Marjon van der Pol, Deirdre Hennessy, Braden Manns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Changing physical activity and dietary behaviour in chronic disease patients is associated with significant health benefits but is difficult to achieve. An often used strategy is for the physician or other health professional to encourage behaviour changes by providing advice on the health consequences of such behaviours. However, adherence to advice on health behaviour change varies across individuals. This paper uses data from a population-based cross-sectional survey of 1,849 individuals with chronic disease to explore whether differences in individuals’ time and risk preferences can help explain differences in adherence. Health behaviours are viewed as investments in health capital within the Grossman model. Physician advice plays a role in the model in that it improves the understanding of the future health consequences of investments. It can be hypothesised that the effect of advice on health behaviour will depend on an individuals’ time and risk preference. Within the survey, which measured a variety of health-related behaviours and outcomes, including receipt and compliance with advice on dietary and physical activity changes, time preferences were measured using financial planning horizon, and risk preferences were measured through a commonly used question which asked respondents to indicate their willingness to take risks on a 10-point scale. Results suggest that time preferences play a role in adherence to physical activity advice. While time preferences also play a role in adherence to dietary advice, this effect is only apparent for males. Risk preferences do not seem to be associated with adherence. The results suggest that increasing the salience of more immediate benefits of health behaviour change may improve adherence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-386
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Health Economics
Issue number3
Early online date16 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

The Interdisciplinary Chronic Disease Collaboration (ICDC) is funded through the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) Inter-disciplinary Team Grants Program. AHFMR is now Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions (AI-HS). The funding agreement ensured the authors’ independence in designing the study, interpreting the data, writing, and publishing the report. The Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates funds HERU. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors only and not those of the funding bodies.


  • adherence
  • time preference
  • risk preference


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