Unleashing the power of lifestyle data

How can we translate research into personal resilience?

I recently caught up with some friends I hadn't met in a while. During our usual chatter about life and work, I noticed that all three of my friends were competing in various activity challenges at work. These activities were organised by their respective companies to promote living an active lifestyle. I listened in as they shared, very passionately, their strategies to achieve the highest step count each day and how closely they were tracking their competitors on the leaderboard. Seeing how enthusiastic and motivated they were, I naturally assumed that they were in it for the generous prizes or financial rewards. So imagine my shock when I learnt that there wasn't a single penny involved, and the big reward was "a sense of satisfaction" from all the hard work and embracing healthier habits.

In my line of work, I've collaborated with many health and wellness companies and platforms. It has become quite commonplace for insurers to reward active participants with discounts as part of their health and wellness programmes. If you're keeping an active lifestyle, you make good attempts to stay healthy, you get discounts. Makes perfect sense.

But as I looked closer, I realised that not many insurers have figured out how to motivate their customers beyond monetary rewards. There could be more innovative propositions out in the market; products that feature dynamic pricing that recognises lifestyle changes and programmes that acknowledge the long-term benefits of a consistently healthy lifestyle. In my view, a long and healthy life can’t be based on a one-off challenge to reach x-number of steps for x-number of weeks. Similarly, to assess the health of a person, we can look beyond clinical factors like weight or blood pressure for a more holistic risk assessment which takes into account lifestyle risk factors.

As the underwriting propositions lead for the APAC market, my job is to translate research into valuable insights for insurers and support them in creating more relevant products for their customers. The new frontier for risk assessment is to look at lifestyle holistically. At Swiss Re, we have identified six factors that have the biggest impact on health and wellbeing – physical activity, sleep, nutrition, mental wellbeing, substance use and the environment – and we call them the "Big Six."  We're deploying our research in the market via Swiss Re's Personal Resilience Suite, an evidence-based approach to determine the impact of lifestyle on risk assessment in combination with health engagement.

I'm not a behavioural scientist, but I'm glad to have colleagues who are. They've helped me learn and understand a lot about the support we can provide to encourage positive, long-term behavioural change. And honestly, it's a complex topic that's very context dependent. Even though there is undeniable value in extrinsic motivators like rewards or discounts, I often question their ability to create sustainable change. My friends' excitement in the activity challenges is proof that money is not the only possible motivator. Cultivating communities can keep people on track with their goals, and competition amongst peers (or even strangers) can spark change.

As an industry, if we can harness the most impactful elements of engagement strategies, we can reap real business benefits. The equation is quite simple - we're more likely to retain, and even gain new customers if we can demonstrate a deep understanding of consumer behaviour and create relevant products and services to support them. This, in turn, benefits end-consumers too. Thoughtfully designed policies and incentive programmes created based on behavioural science research can motivate people to live healthier lives.

The key to success is to gain a real understanding of consumers' needs and maintain consistent engagement. Small successes build trust and trust provides the basis for even bigger successes. For example:

  • By gathering more lifestyle data points from consumers, our insights become more accurate. This gives insurers the confidence to augment the traditional underwriting process using lifestyle factors
  • By closely monitoring consumers' engagement levels, insurers can quickly spot fluctuations, and implement timely and personalised notifications to ensure consumers stay on track with their fitness goals
  • By analysing consumers' lifestyle changes over time, insurers can better determine the effectiveness of their programmes and make necessary adjustments to improve user satisfaction

I'm glad to have caught up with my friends and see that they have taken their first steps to a healthier lifestyle. I hope that through our work as an industry, we'll be able to help more people like them live longer, healthier lives. It's not an easy task and definitely not one that we can take on alone. We'll need to partner with innovative wellness companies, learn from leading research institutions, and draw on lessons from governments and the public health sector. Collectively, and through persistent effort, we can drive healthy behaviours, prevent chronic diseases and develop science-backed insurance propositions that provide more than just financial protection.  

Get in touch with us if you're interested to find out more about our "Big Six" research and how we can support you in this journey to spark healthy change in your customers' lives.