Healthy Living

Empowering and enabling people to make life choices that benefit their health—including nutrition, sleep, engagement with technology, physical activity, and social connections—while addressing the systems and structures that can significantly impact one’s ability to make those choices

The global disease burden is strongly related to behavioral factors including dietary choices, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, alcohol, and poor medication adherence. Creating awareness about and changing these behaviors also represents a major opportunity to improve health and well-being. A balanced and healthy diet, sufficient and regular sleep, and moderate physical activity are just a few of the elements that enable healthier living. Social connectedness and living a purposeful life also promote better health outcomes, suggesting that the way we live our lives—our actions, decisions, and relationships—has a substantial impact on our health and life spans.

The communities of which we are a part are an important enabler of healthy lives. They provide and maintain structures that further support health, promote healthy behaviors, and foster consciousness around the importance of health as an asset. Governments and healthcare providers, as well as employers, schools, and other institutions play a central role in promoting healthy lifestyles by providing health education, better access to infrastructure, and a higher investment in preventive care.

As science increasingly grasps the behavioral determinants of health and society grows more health conscious, it becomes essential to address the main barriers preventing people from adopting healthier lifestyles. These include the socio-economic context, cognitive biases about health, misaligned incentives to adopt healthy habits, and insufficient information about the health consequences of certain behaviors.

The path toward healthier lives also requires a significant reallocation of health spending: governments, employers, and communities will need to disproportionately invest in disease prevention and health promotion, in addition to curative care.

Lastly, enabling healthier lives globally requires accounting for the different challenges countries and regions face. Low-income areas might benefit most from access to sanitary infrastructure and food security, while high-income may need to consider sedentary lifestyles.

63%

of global disease burden

directly related to the most common behaviors such as alcohol, poor medication adherence, poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, and smoking 1

2.8%

of OECD countries’ current health budgets

allocated to prevention interventions such as vaccinations, disease screenings, and health education2

50%

increased likelihood of survival

for people with strong social relationships versus those with weaker relationships3

Topics to explore

In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, the McKinsey Health Institute (MHI) is interested in exploring long-term questions such as:

  • How can we work across the many silos to drive meaningful and sustainable improvements in healthy living?
  • How best can we equip and enable individuals to live their best possible lives?
  • What if everyone got enough regular sleep? What would it take to change attitude toward sleep and turn its reputation from “lost time” into “active recovery”?

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1. Robert F. Kushner, Kirsten Webb Sorensen, “Lifestyle medicine: the future of chronic disease management,” Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity, Oct 2013
2. “Health spending in most OECD countries rises, with the US far outstripping all others,” OECD, Mar 6, 2004

3. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B. Smith, and J. Bradley Layton, “Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review,” PLOS Medicine, Jul 7, 2010

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