Evaluation of evidence supporting NICE recommendations to change people's lifestyle in clinical practice: cross sectional survey

Loai Albarqouni, Martin Ringsten, Victor Montori, Karsten Juhl Jørgensen, Helen Bulbeck, Minna Johansson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives To assess whether recommendations of individually oriented lifestyle interventions (IOLIs) in guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) were underpinned by evidence of benefit, and whether harms and opportunity costs were considered.Design Cross sectional survey.Setting UK.Data sources NICE guidelines and supporting evidence.Eligibility criteria All NICE pathways for IOLI recommendations (ie, non-drug interventions that healthcare professionals administer to adults to achieve a healthier lifestyle and improve health) were searched systematically on 26 August 2020. One author screened all retrieved pathways for candidate guidelines, while a second author verified these judgments. Two authors independently and in duplicate screened all retrieved guidelines and recommendations for eligibility, extracted data, and evaluated the evidence cited and the outcomes considered. Disagreements were noted and resolved by consensus.Results Within 57 guidelines, 379 NICE recommendations were found for IOLIs; almost all (n=374; 99%) recommended the lifestyle intervention and five (1%) recommended against the intervention. Of the 379 recommendations, 13 (3%) were supported by moderate or high certainty evidence of a beneficial effect on patient relevant outcomes (n=7; 2%) or surrogate outcomes (n=13; 3%). 19 (5%) interventions considered psychosocial harms, 32 (8%) considered physical harms, and one (<1%) considered the opportunity costs of implementation. No intervention considered the burden placed on individuals by these recommendations.Conclusion Few NICE recommendations of lifestyle interventions are supported by reliable evidence. While this finding does not contest the beneficial effects of healthy habits, guidelines recommending clinicians to try to change people’s lifestyle need to be reconsidered given the substantial uncertainty about the effectiveness, harms, and opportunity costs of such interventions.Data are available in a public, open access repository. All data is available in appendices, which are published in the Open Science Framework (osf.io/42juh).
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000130
JournalBMJ Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Sept 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


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