Health is only skin deep as UK women put beauty benefits before wellbeing

Article date: 28 July 2009

  • Looking young and attractive is motivation for lifestyle changes 

Health is only skin deep for the UK’s women – a new study today reveals their real motivation for lifestyle changes is to look younger or more attractive.

Almost nine in 10 (87%) admit they try to live healthy lifestyles so they look good and can appear young for as long as possible – more than twice the number (40%) who want to stay free from ill-health.

The Aviva UK Health "My Health Counts" study which was commissioned to support the launch of MyHealthCounts an innovative health management service now available as part of its Health Solutions personal health insurance policy, reveals the value women put on looks rather than health:

  • Over half (53%) would choose a slim and toned body over low cholesterol (6%) or good blood pressure rates (12%)
  • Stained teeth (74%) and wrinkles are more likely to motivate them to stop smoking than the impact on their fitness (49%)
  • Over half (53%) worry about the effect of drinking on their weight or looks, compared with the long-term health implications (32%)
  • Six in 10 (61%) exercise to lose weight or to look good (43%)
  • 86% know their weight – double the amount who know their blood pressure (42%). People are also in the dark about their cholesterol levels (27%), resting heart rate (15%) and less than one in 10 (9%) know their blood glucose level. 

That focus on beauty before health also means almost eight in 10 (79%) consult celebrity magazines for health and lifestyle advice – a third more (31%) than who seek advice from a medical professional.

The Aviva study reveals a more responsible health approach from the nation’s men who are motivated to eat well and exercise in a bid to simply be healthier (69%).

Women however are more likely to try quick fix fads – one in three (36%) will ditch a health regime if they don’t see results after just two weeks, rocketing to 67% after just one month. 

Dr Doug Wright, head of clinical governance, Aviva UK Health, is now warning the nation’s women to take steps to improve their health and look beyond the mirror: “Just because you like what you see in the mirror today, does not mean that an unhealthy lifestyle isn’t actually taking its toll on your long-term health. Although you may think that you look healthy on the outside it’s what’s inside that really counts. Potentially serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes can often go undetected until it’s too late.

“Regular health checks are the best indicator of wellbeing – and should be more motivating than images in celebrity magazines.

“Leading a healthy lifestyle needn’t be costly or onerous. It’s not just about going to the gym or the latest fad. Simply going for a brisk walk, gardening or even shopping all help contribute to improving your fitness. Coupling this with a healthy well-balanced diet can make a real difference to both your looks and long-term health.”

The Aviva UK "My Health Counts" study also reveals that:

  • 50% of women don’t spend any money on health care each month, whilst some women spend almost £2,000* a year on beauty products
  • Just 8% of respondents said they live a very healthy lifestyle
  • In the last six months, both men and women have neglected eye (62%) and dental checks (48%)
  • Almost a quarter (23%) do no exercise at all.

Aviva UK Health commissioned the study to mark the launch of MyHealthCounts, an innovative enhancement to its Health Solutions personal health insurance policy. MyHealthCounts is an online health management service that encourages individuals to take pro-active steps to improve their lifestyle and rewards them with up to 15% Wellness Discount for any positive impact their efforts have on their health.  

Designed by medical experts, MyHealthCounts contains a wealth of invaluable information offering personalised advice on the steps individuals can take to improve their health and help reduce their risk of developing serious illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.

To discover how healthy they are compared to 100 other people in their demographic peer group, individuals complete a short online health and lifestyle questionnaire and if they choose, have a pharmacy health check, to generate their current and maximum “Q Score.”  Once their “Q Score” is calculated, the online coach suggests ways to maintain and improve their health.

Customers who are able to improve their “Q score” at the end of the year are rewarded with a unique Wellness Discount on their Private Health Insurance renewal of up to 15%. The unique Wellness Discount is awarded off the customer’s next private health insurance renewal premium, irrespective of whether they have made a claim on their policy.   


For more information contact the Aviva Healthcare team on:
Telephone: 0207 908 6488 

Notes to editors:

  • 1% of women who spend up to £149 a month on beauty products X 12 months = £1,788

The study based on 2007 interviews during July 2009 and was conducted by Redshift Research

MyHealthCounts is available to Aviva’s new individual health insurance customers from 15 July and existing health insurance customers from their next renewal.

The benefit will be rolled out to Aviva’s corporate health insurance customers later on in the year to help them tackle their sickness absence costs, respond to the Government’s workplace wellness recommendations and control future medical insurance premiums.

Aviva is working in partnership with Roadtohealth to provide MyHealthCounts. 

Q Score is a trademark of Roadtohealth ltd.

Health and Wellbeing from Aviva
Established in 1990 as the healthcare arm of Norwich Union, Norwich Union Healthcare was re-branded to Aviva in 2009. We provide a range of private medical insurance, income protection, occupational health and group life products and services that cover over 2,400,000 lives. We are one of the largest providers of income protection, group life and private medical insurance in the UK.

Norwich Union Occupation Health, a sister company of Norwich Union Healthcare, was also re-branded to Aviva in 2009. Occupational Health provides occupational health solutions and services to a wide range of industry sectors. By utilising their large fleet of purpose built mobile clinics and approved medical centres, staffed by a team of experienced occupational physicians and nursing staff, the services are designed to meet the individual needs of clients.

Aviva Health UK Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is a member of the Association of British Insurers and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Aviva’s news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva’s internet press centre at

About Aviva

  • Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group, is the world’s fifth largest insurance group, serving 50 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.
  • In the UK, Aviva is a leading provider of life, pensions, investment, general insurance and health products to more than 20 million customers.  Aviva also provides roadside assistance through the RAC. Products are distributed through a number of channels including IFAs, brokers, corporate partners and direct to customers via the internet.
  • Aviva's UK Insurance business has a market share of around 15%, making it the largest general insurer in the UK. The business is focused on insurance for individuals and small businesses.
  • Aviva's life and pensions business in the UK has a total market share of 12% and a top three position in its key markets of savings, protection, and annuities.

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