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December 2017

Motivating Health Behaviors in Adolescents Through Behavioral Economics

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Nursing, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 2Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 3Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 4Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 5Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit, Division of General Pediatrics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 6Social Media Editor of JAMA Pediatrics
JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(12):1145-1146. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3464

We are not rational beings when it comes to our health. Although we know that our personal behaviors are linked to the development of diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, we still eat unhealthy foods, do not exercise enough, and drink and smoke too much. Our tendency to satisfy short-term interests and discount more impactful long-term consequences is an example of a cognitive bias examined in behavioral economics research.1,2 This type of cognitive bias is likely magnified for adolescents, and the health consequences are much more serious for youth with type 1 diabetes, who face the development of life-threatening diabetes complications years or decades later if they do not attend to health behaviors, such as blood glucose (BG) monitoring and insulin delivery in the present.