Can evolutionary mismatch help generate interest in health promotion messages?

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Background: Generating interest in health interventions is an important first step towards engagement with health promotion and effecting behaviour change. This study explored whether framing health information about physical activity and diet from an evolutionary mismatch perspective could help to generate interest in health promotion among overweight and inactive adults. Evolutionary mismatch theory proposes that human cultural evolution has occurred too rapidly for biological evolution to keep up, creating a mismatch between genes and lifestyles that gives rise to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Method: A total of 18 adults completed interviews in which they viewed and discussed a variety of mismatch-framed health information resources. Follow-up questions assessed if and what participants had thought about the information in the week after the interview. Transcripts were thematically analysed. Results: Participants found the evolutionary perspective to be novel and interesting. It also provided a meaningful rationale for behaviour change. However, there was some evidence of negative elaboration, which would need to be managed if implementing this approach. Conclusion: Adopting a mismatch perspective can help to engage audiences with important health information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-526
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Education Journal
Issue number5
Early online date29 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Diet
  • evolutionary mismatch theory
  • health communication
  • health promotion
  • physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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