CHICAGO — It can feel like bad news dominates the headlines, but a recent survey of 2,032 American adults actually has some good news for a change. The majority of respondents say they’re doing just fine, and in many cases, excellent when it comes to overall health and wellbeing.
In all, 54% said their overall health and wellness is “good,” while another 17% used the word “excellent.” Conducted on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association, the survey asked Americans about their work, exercise, and sleeping habits, as well as their concerns regarding healthcare access, politics, and the environment.
While the survey’s findings were definitely on the bright side, many respondents admitted that they wish healthcare was more widely accessible and affordable.
“The good news in this survey is that most people are doing the right things. They’re getting enough sleep, not burning themselves out at work, and, on average, exercising more than twice the recommended amount,” says Rick Pescatore, DO, an osteopathic emergency physician, in a release. “On the other hand, when we think about whole-person health, we also consider a number of factors outside people’s control, and we’re seeing things that need improvement.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, when the survey’s results were broken down by income, some major inequalities emerged. For example, while 71% of Americans said their health is either good or excellent, that group was made up of only 60% of those with an income of less than $50,000 per year, while 81% of individuals with an income of $100,000 or more said the same.
Respondents also said that the top areas of their life in need of improvement are physical health (42%) and financial stability (41%). Mental health was the third most frequent answer (29%), but far more younger Americans seemed to be concerned with mental health, with 44% of surveyed 18-34 year olds expressing this sentiment compared to only 10% of adults over the age of 65.
“It’s definitely true that mental health has become more mainstream in the past couple decades and more of a priority to the younger generations,” Dr. Pescatore explains. “However, this poll might be showing that younger people are also more acutely affected by outside stressors, like financial instability and political divisiveness.”
Interestingly, 39% said they would like easier access to dental care, followed by 33% in need of a more affordable or geographically closer primary care physician. Another 24% would like better access to emergency services, 21% don’t have enough psychology/psychiatry options, and 19% would like to see more specialized care availability.
“This was one of the most concerning findings from the survey,” Dr. Pescatore comments. “That between a fifth to over a third of Americans want better access to these critical components of healthcare is very alarming.”
Respondents were also asked about issues that concern themselves and their family the most, and once again, healthcare affordability was the most common answer (51%). The particularly polarizing nature of American politics and discourse these days was the second most frequent answer (38%). Political divisiveness was cited as a big concern among older Americans (46% of 55-64 year olds, 59% of 65 and older) much more frequently than younger Americans (18-34 year olds, 25%). Environmental concerns such as climate change or pollution were cited as a big concern among 38% of participants.
Among the survey’s other findings was the revelation that the average American only sleeps 6.6 hours each night. Also, employed Americans usually work for 35 hours each week, and exercise an average of 6.9 hours per week.
Speaking of exercise, walking was the most common exercise among respondents, listed by 77% of participants who regularly exercise. Weight lifting came in second (33%), followed by running (31%), cycling (23%), yoga (20%), and sports (17%).
Finally, surveyed Americans were also asked about their support networks of colleagues, friends and family. In all, 70% said they have a strong support network within their community. Again, though, there were some noticeable differences in this category after considering income; only 58% of those with a household income below $50,000 said they have a strong support network, in comparison to 77% of respondents with an income of $100,000 or more.
The survey was conducted via The Harris Poll.