A study published in the latest issue of the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine shows that worry may be an important factor in motivating people to quit smoking.
Lead author Renee Magnan and her coauthors found that sending smokers several messages (six to eight per day) creates worry that causes them to contemplate quitting. In this randomized study, significantly more members of the group receiving antismoking messages tried to quit than members of the group receiving messages about other daily hassles, such as stress and money.
This messaging can motivate smokers to quit, but the effect is somewhat low when one considers the entire causal relationship:
Messages → Worrying → Motivated to quit → Quitting
Delivering worrisome messages is a nice example of how we can nudge people toward behavior change. In their book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein explain how a nudge can influence our choices. Companies in the business of health behavior change can think of and employ ways to nudge people toward that desired behavior.
Businesses offering products and services aimed at changing consumer health behavior should already be thinking about optimizing consumer message delivery—content, timing, mode, etc. Taking heed of this latest study, companies can engage frequent messaging to increase awareness of health risks.