Skip to main content

Competence Centre on Behavioural Insights

We support policymaking with evidence on human behaviour

Topic / Tool | Last updated: 10 Jul 2024

Behavioural insights for health

Many of our behaviours affect our health, and that of those around us. Understanding this can help shape better health policies.

Explore further

Why behavioural insights matter

Our behaviour affects our health. Think about smoking, eating (un)healthy food, getting screened for a specific type of cancer, or exercising. Washing our hands, getting tested for HIV or getting vaccinated are also important for the health of those around us.

Behavioural insights can help us better understand how and why we behave in ways that affect our health. For instance:

  • We’re more likely to exercise and bike to work or school if our friends and relatives do the same. The behaviour of those around us can create a social norm.
  • We sometimes fail to choose healthy food because we don’t notice or understand nutritional information on food packages.
  • Negative emotions such as fear influence our willingness to take health screening tests.

Understanding these behavioural factors can contribute to more effective and efficient health policies.


How behavioural insights can help

Behavioural insights can generate and test policy interventions that account for these behavioural factors. For instance:

Picture warnings on cigarettes and tobacco

  • New rules under the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive , applicable since 2016, were informed by behavioural evidence.
  • The impact assessment (PDF) (see Section 5.3) examined evidence about the images and text that are most effective in eliciting negative emotional reactions and decreased desire to smoke, for both smokers and non-smokers.

Nutritional labels on food

  • In 2020, the European Commission report on better nutrition information on food (PDF) included behavioural evidence (Section 6) to inform future food labelling schemes.
  • This evidence focused on consumer attention, acceptance, and understanding of front-of-package nutrition labels, and their impact on purchases and diets.


Ongoing projects


Completed projects


Selected publications


More publications