Public Acceptability

Our work on public acceptability

One of our aims at the BHRU is to identify effective interventions to help steer people towards more healthier behaviours. Our work on public acceptability of interventions designed to change behaviour(s) focuses on gaining insight not only into how acceptable some of these health interventions are, but additionally what factors might influence how acceptable people find such interventions.

Why this is important

  • Public acceptability may affect the extent to which an intervention to change behaviour will work in practice
  • How acceptable people find different policy options can influence policy decisions
  • The most effective interventions are not always the easiest for government to implement.

Click on the images below to read more about the work we are doing in this area.

Key Studies: 

  • How does the public judge nudging to cut sugary drinks?

    Cola_webHow acceptable do people find nudges such as reducing bottle sizes of sugary drinks to prevent obesity? Does highlighting the non-conscious nature of nudging affect their acceptability?  The results of our study, conducted with over 2000 UK and US participants, show that most people find such “nudges” to be acceptable interventions to prevent obesity.

    Although, highlighting the non-conscious nature of nudges does not alter their acceptability, the study found that taxing sugary drinks was only acceptable to a minority. But for both nudging and taxing, the acceptability of the intervention increased the more effective participants judged them to be. This suggests people are prepared to trade off dislike of an intervention for achieving a valued goal, such as tackling obesity.

    Public acceptability in the UK and USA of nudging to reduce obesity: the example of reducing sugar-sweetened beverages consumption. Petrescu, Hollands, Couturier, Ng & Marteau, 2016.

    Access full text


    Continue reading →
  • Why don’t people like government increasing prices on unhealthy items?

    Stack of coins isolated on the background.Price interventions can be one of the most effective ways of changing behaviour – particularly for reducing consumption of tobacco and alcohol – but public support for these interventions is usually low.

    In this focus group study, three themes emerged for the low acceptability of price increases to reduce consumption of alcohol and fast foods:

    1. Doubting that it works to reduce consumption
    2. Believing government raises prices to generate revenue rather than protect health
    3. Not trusting the government.

    Highlighting evidence of intervention effectiveness might increase the acceptability of price interventions.

    Public attitudes towards pricing policies to change health-related behaviours: a UK focus group study. Somerville, Marteau, Kinmonth & Cohn, 2015.

    Access full text.


    Continue reading →
  • Does information about intervention effectiveness increase acceptability?

    Yellow post-it on white backgroundHow acceptable people find different interventions to reduce alcohol consumption varies depending on the type of intervention and its effectiveness.

    While our study found differences in acceptability depending on intervention type (affecting price, availability or advertising), acceptability increased when information on effectiveness was given

    Highlighting the effectiveness of interventions could increase their acceptability.

    Public acceptability of population-level interventions to reduce alcohol consumption: A discrete choice experiment. Pechey, Burge, Mentzakis, Suhrcke & Marteau, 2014.

    Access full text


    Continue reading →
  • Do the most effective interventions have the most public support?

    Group of People Hands Clasped ConceptWe carried out the first systematic review of the literature on public attitudes to government interventions to reduce tobacco and alcohol use, increase physical activity and/or improve diet. The review included 200 studies.

    We found that people regarded interventions that were least intrusive (but often also the least effective) such as giving information as the most acceptable and price interventions (which can be very effective) as the least acceptable.

    We are now studying how to increase public acceptability of the most effective interventions.

    Public acceptability of government intervention to change health-related behaviours: a systematic review and narrative synthesis. Diepeveen, Ling, Suhrcke, Roland & Marteau, 2013.

    Access full text


    Continue reading →

Publications related to public acceptability of interventions designed to change behaviour(s)