New Mintel survey shows Americans in denial about health

September 2, 2009

We think we’re healthier than we actually are, suggests a new survey from market research leader Mintel. Surveying Americans about their health, Mintel found people’s perceptions strongly contradict national statistics about obesity, illness and wellness.
Seven in 10 survey respondents (71%) told Mintel they think they’re in excellent or good health. But according to the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ Connected Care, 100 million Americans suffer from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes or hypertension.
On the weighty issue of obesity, people seem to be in denial as well. Only 25% of survey respondents said they suffer from or have been diagnosed as obese or overweight. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), however, two-thirds (67%) fall into these categories. Mintel calculated the body mass index (BMI) of survey respondents for a separate report on obesity and likewise found that 65% of people are overweight or obese.
“The challenge clearly lies in getting Americans to accept and admit that their health isn’t optimal,” comments Krista Faron, senior analyst at Mintel. “Right now we say one thing, but then our actions contradict those perceptions and best intentions. All companies, from healthcare to food, need to get adults who are at risk or ill to recognize their issues, accept responsibility and make lifestyle changes.”
Mintel found 70% of adults think they should exercise more. Fewer than two in five (37%) say they exercise regularly, and half of them (48%) only work out twice a week or less. The CDC recommends moderate aerobic activity for 150 minutes per week, plus two days of muscle-strengthening.
The dichotomy between perceived health and actual behavior emerges further in attitudes towards food. Two-thirds of Mintel respondents (65%) said they “try to eat healthier food these days”, but nearly the same percentage (59%) said they eat the foods they like “regardless of calories”. Similarly, just over half (52%) said they’re on a diet, but nearly the same number (45%) feel they often overeat.
“People have lofty, admirable goals of eating healthier, exercising more and treating their bodies better. Our research suggests though, that implementation of these goals is challenging. Many people need help and guidance to understand where their health is lacking and how they can improve it,” recommends Krista Faron.
About half of Mintel survey respondents (51%) consider it “very important” to live a healthy lifestyle; another four in 10 (39%) consider it “somewhat important”.

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