Most people are happy for the government to influence behaviour to encourage healthy lifestyles, according to international research.

The research by Ipsos MORI’s social research institute said British people find it acceptable to require patients to change their lifestyles before they can receive treatment.

The findings suggest that more than half of Britons, 57 per cent, think it is the government’s role to influence healthier behaviour, compared with 70 per cent in Ireland and only 35 per cent in Germany.

In July, the government set up a behavioural insight team to come up with ways to “nudge” people into healthier lifestyles.

Social research institute managing director Bobby Duffy said the idea was popular internationally among policy makers.

He said: “This is a difficult line for governments to tread… But the lack of outcry suggests concern may not be as great as we would have expected. This may not then be just another short lived policy fad, but a real change to how governments operate in areas like healthcare.”

However, the survey found encouraging telephone and online consultations was not acceptable in Britain.