Decisions about lifestyle play a key role in influencing health. Illnesses such as heart disease result from combinations of factors, making it hard for people to evaluate alternatives (e.g., knowing how much exercise might give similar benefit to eating more fruit and vegetables). Computers can provide customized risk leaflets and interactive displays, which may encourage people to explore potential lifestyle changes by showing the consequences for future health of specific combinations of lifestyle changes. This empirical study invited 24 adult volunteers to use the information from a customized leaflet or interactive display to advise hypothetical patients about lifestyle changes. Advisers used both leaflet and computer for different patients, with order counterbalanced across volunteers. It was found that more combinations of lifestyle factors were explored with the interactive display, especially by the younger volunteers, without this taking more time. Most of the older volunteers preferred interacting with the computer, and rated it as easier to use than the leaflet. It is concluded that easy to use computer interfaces can be devised that help people explore the health consequences of personal decisions about lifestyle, and that people prefer interactive assistance rather than using printed alternatives.
© Walter de Gruyter