The recent trend of people giving up meat and/or dairy and opting for a vegetarian or plant-based diet continues to rise in popularity. But why is this shift happening on a mass level and what are the motivating factors?
In Western culture, some of the most common answers are environment, health and animal rights. However, according to a recent study, health is the main reason for most people. Researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Davis, did an extensive survey to find out what factors compelled the non-vegetarians to make the switch to vegetarianism.
Researchers conducted the study on 8,000 people from the US and Holland of different ages and ethnicities. The results showed that health was the main factor, with environmental and animal rights motives being the less common ones.
“The most common reason people say they would consider being vegetarian has to do with health… However, people driven primarily by health motives may be least likely to respond to vegetarian advocacy, in general,” said Christopher J. Hopwood, professor of psychology and co-author of the paper. The study also stated that people who are committed to a vegetarian diet were also motivated by the environment or animal rights.
The researchers further found that the health factor was associated with conventionality and masculinity, whereas people who cite environmental or animal right motives tend to be curious, open to experience, likely to volunteer and interested in the arts.
“Based on these results, advocacy groups could target certain kinds of people – maybe advertise health benefits at a gym or church service, but environmental or animal rights perspectives at a museum or concert,” Hopwood said.
On a related note, although people use the terms interchangeably, there are some differences between vegetarian diet, plant-based diet and vegan diet. People on a vegetarian or plant-based diet do use some animal-based products in their meals, like milk and curd. On the other hand, the vegans rule out animal-based products from their diet.
These results provide researchers with a useful tool for identifying vegetarian motives among both vegetarian and non-vegetarian respondents and provide advocates with guidance about how to best target campaigns promoting a vegetarian diet.