Objective: To assess the evidence for the cost-effectiveness of health behaviour interventions that address the major behavioural risk factors for chronic disease, including smoking, physical inactivity, poor diet, and alcohol misuse.
Methods: Medical and economic databases were searched for relevant economic evaluations. Studies were critically appraised using a published 35-point checklist, and the results are described using a narrative approach, noting methodological limitations. The review included 64 studies from 1995-2005, including 17 reports on multiple behaviour interventions.
Results: There was considerable variation among the studies by target populations, intervention components, primary outcomes, and economic methods, but the reported incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were consistently low (e.g. <14,000 Euros per quality-adjusted life-year gained for smoking-cessation programmes in 2006 Euros) as compared to certain preventive pharmaceutical and invasive interventions. Interventions targeting high-risk-population subgroups were relatively better value for money as compared to those targeting general populations.
Discussion: In general, the results of this review demonstrate favourable cost-effectiveness for smoking interventions, physical activity interventions and multiple behaviour interventions in high-risk groups. Although alcohol and dietary interventions appeared to be economically favourable, it is difficult to draw conclusions because of the variety in study outcomes. However, methodological limitations weaken the generalizability of findings, and suggest that the results of any given study should be considered carefully when being used to inform resource allocation.