A thousand volunteers in Plymouth are being asked whether they shoplift or joyride as part of a study into lifestyles.
Plymouth University's health-related quality of life research centre has won Pounds 50,000 from the Medical Research Council for a three-year study of the breadth of activities that people indulge in.
"Stealing or joyriding may not be activities that many will acknowledge," said the centre's director, Michael Hyland. "However, we are trying to analyse, with utmost honesty, the whole spectrum of people's day to day activities, and in this respect, shoplifting and joyriding are just as relevant to some as playing or watching football, knitting, jogging, doing aerobics, going for a walk or playing bingo. It is not our intention or desire to pass value judgements on people's behaviour."
The randomly selected volunteers, who are guaranteed anonymity, will be asked to tick which of 160 activities they have participated in over the past year. These include going to the hairdresser, visiting a health club, drinking, smoking, taking drugs, making love, enjoying nature, praying, helping friends, and getting into fights.
Professor Hyland said the information could help assess people's quality of life. It could also help doctors advise people who had suffered strokes, heart attacks or broken limbs on new activities.
"Not that we are suggesting such people should take up shop-lifting or joyriding," said Professor Hyland.