Purpose: To assess the Willingness To Pay (WTP) to reduce Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) risk and to assess the Value of a Statistical Life (VSL) for CHD risk reductions from changing dietary habits and amount of physical activity in the Northern Ireland.
Method: A stratified sample of 519 persons representative of the Northern Ireland population aged 40-65 were administered with a Choice Experiments (CE) questionnaire through computer assisted personal interviews, conducted in the house of the respondents, during January – March 2011. Respondents were queried about their medical history, eating habits, and levels of physical activity to present them with their own CHD risk in the next ten years. Respondents were then shown ten CE questions where they were asked to trade off their current lifestyle with hypothetical lifestyle options, described by reduction in unhealthy food items, increase in the consumption of fruit and vegetables, increase in the amount of physical activity, reduction in the risk of a heart attack, and increase in weekly expenditures. We use Mixed logit models to analyze the CE data.
Result: Respondents are on average willing to pay £0.03/minute per week for increasing their amount of Physical Activity, which is equal to £5.18 to reach the recommended amount of 30 minutes of Physical Activity 5 times/week. Respondents need to be compensated, as they have a WTP equal to £-0.01/gram of fat per week, for reducing fat content from diet and replacing fatty items with fruit and vegetables. Respondents are also willing to pay £0.81 per week for reducing their own CHD risk by 1% over the next 10 years. When controlling for income, BMI, and health status, we find that respondents with higher BMI levels are willing to pay more for increasing their amount of physical activity, and need to receive higher compensations for reducing fat content from their diets. Considering a 3.5% discount rate, the VSL is equal to £610,944.
Conclusion: A policy to reduce obesity should invest more public money in programs that promote physical activity, rather than making unhealthy food less attractive. Our results show that people with high BMI levels are more likely to choose a lifestyle option characterized by increased levels of physical activity, rather than by a food basked that entails a sacrifice in terms of reduced fat content.