Researchers know that people are motivated to be vegetarian for different reasons—the most common in Western cultures being health, the environment, and animal rights. But how compelling are these different factors for nonvegetarians? A study published in PLOS ONE examined the most compelling reasons why nonvegetarians decide to become vegetarian.

The researchers surveyed 8,000 people of various ages and ethnicities, in two languages, in both the United States and Holland. The results showed that the main motivation for nonvegetarians to consider being vegetarian is health, with environmental and animal rights motives being less common. However, people who are most committed to a vegetarian diet were most motivated by the environment or animal rights.

“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 at the University of California, Davis, in a university press release.

This creates a challenge for advocacy movements. One possible solution would be to target different motives in different groups of people. The researchers found that health motives were associated with conventionality and masculinity. In contrast, people who cite environmental or animal rights motives tend to be curious, open to experience, likely to volunteer, and interested in the arts.

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