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Insurance Review: Putting the ‘tech’ into protection

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If more was done to promote a healthy lifestyle through technology, more people might invest in insurance products

Health is a hot topic in our office at the moment as many of us long-termers have just turned, or are approaching, 40 and are in the process of booking our free NHS health check.

We are more aware than ever of how healthy we are, given we engage in digital health and wellbeing such as wearable technology. Fifteen years ago we were all about staying out late and over-indulging, whereas discussions on a Monday morning now are more likely to be about how many miles we ran or cycled over the weekend.

The importance of an active lifestyle is regularly highlighted in articles and television programmes, as well as by the technology we increasingly use. But is this really leading to an improvement in our collective health and fitness?

Sales of wearables

An article by CNBC suggests sales of wearables are projected to exceed 305 million units in 2020 as more and more people buy in to the benefits of being health aware. However, according to the 2015 Aviva Health Check UK Report, we are yet to see a correlation in improved health.

The report focuses on the fact the UK’s “growing waistlines” remain an ongoing concern. Indeed, the percentage of men at a healthy weight in this country has reduced from 41 per cent to 39 per cent in the past year. Women at a healthy weight have remained constant at 46 per cent.

There are a couple of points to note, however. First, the percentage of overweight 18- to 24-year-olds comes in at 28 per cent, compared to 63 per cent for the over-65s. It could be said this older group is least likely to engage in technology that promotes health and wellbeing. Perhaps it could also be said it is too early to see the results of the increased interest in new technology overall.

When it comes to diet, the report also highlights the fact that, despite the Government having run a campaign for many years on the importance of eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, just 22 per cent of us are achieving this. In a role reversal on the weight statistics, however, it is the older generation that is more likely to eat the right amount of healthy food.

The risks of an unhealthy lifestyle are clear and we are all very aware of the pressure this is putting on the NHS. So what can be done?

The British Medical Association is among a group pushing for a ‘sugar tax’ to be introduced on fizzy drinks, which could potentially raise £1bn to be used in tackling childhood obesity.

Meanwhile, providers such as Vitality actively encourage members to participate in a healthy living programme by rewarding those who visit the gym, as well as those who do not smoke.

Wider encouragement

It would be great to see the Government and the industry do more to promote a healthy lifestyle, perhaps tying this in to the ever-growing interest in technology that tracks our day-to-day diet and activity.

This innovation may then lead more people to become engaged with protection products, which will be increasingly important as NHS resources are stretched further.

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