Intended for healthcare professionals


Can behavioural economics make us healthier?

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 23 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3482
  1. George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology123,
  2. David A Asch, professor of medicine and healthcare management23456,
  3. Joelle Y Friedman, assistant director23,
  4. Lori A Melichar, senior program officer7,
  5. Kevin G Volpp, professor of medicine and healthcare management23456
  1. 1Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, 208 Porter Hall, 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
  2. 2Centre for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
  3. 3Penn CMU Roybal P30 Center on Behavioral Economics and Health, Pennsylvania
  4. 4Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
  5. 5Department of Health Care Management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
  6. 6Centre for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Philadelphia VA Medical Centre, Philadelphia
  7. 7Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, NJ, USA
  1. Correspondence to: G Loewenstein GL20{at}
  • Accepted 10 April 2012


Behavioural economics is becoming increasingly popular as a way to improve public health. George Loewenstein and colleagues point out some of the pitfalls and warn that it cannot be used as a substitute for conventional policies to tackle fundamental problems


  • Contributors and sources: GL, DAA, and KGV are experts in behavioural economics and have conducted extensive research on the topic. LAM and JYF are engaged in promoting and conducting research in this field. All authors contributed to the concepts and structure of this manuscript. GL is the guarantor.

  • Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE unified disclosure form at (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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