Average American feels just ‘70% healthy’

NEW YORK — How healthy are you? If you’re like most Americans, you’re not feeling in tip-top shape. A recent survey reveals a startling insight into Americans’ perception of their own health: on average, they rate themselves as only 70% healthy. This eye-opening statistic emerges from a survey of 2,000 adults in which 42% of participants who did not consider themselves fully healthy could not even recall the last time they felt in peak health.

The definition of health, according to the survey respondents, predominantly revolves around eating nutritious foods (45%) and maintaining regular physical activity (41%). However, this narrow focus seems to overlook other critical aspects of health. Surprisingly, only 29% of participants recognize the importance of 7-9 hours of sleep in their daily routine, while a mere 25% appreciate the value of a positive mindset.

Alarmingly, only 12% acknowledge the need for mental health care.

This study, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Cambia Health Foundation, highlights a prevalent confusion among Americans about what it truly means to be “healthy,” with 62% agreeing that there are too many differing opinions on the subject.

Mental health, in particular, emerges as a neglected area, with half of the American population never having received mental health care. Reasons vary from a lack of perceived need (42%) to barriers such as high costs (14%) and time constraints (11%).

Social support seems to be a real struggle for Americans too, which can certainly have implications on long-term health. Furthermore, 19% of respondents feel dissatisfied with the quality of their relationships, and 20% are unhappy with the frequency of interaction with their loved ones, underscoring the impact of social connections on mental well-being.


Older adults, taking walk through a park.
Connecting with loved ones is an important part of overall health. (© Monkey Business – stock.adobe.com)

Doctors should focus on all facets of health, not just physical

The study also sheds light on the lesser-known effects of mental health on physical health, a connection that 39% of participants were unaware of. While doctors frequently inquire about physical health, nearly a third of respondents (29%) report that their mental health is rarely, if ever, a topic of discussion during medical consultations.

Overall, a whopping 82% of those surveyed agree that being healthy extends beyond regular doctor visits. Yet, 34% confess to currently neglecting certain health concerns. “Health is vital, personal, and shaped by multiple factors including social connection and access to resources,” says Peggy Maguire, president of Cambia Health Foundation, in a statement.

The survey also uncovers that 34% of Americans avoid seeking medical care due to fear of what might be discovered (33%) and accessibility issues. Social determinants such as economic stability (38%) and access to healthcare (36%) significantly influence their health.

Access to healthy foods is another concern, with 20% rating their access as below average. Transportation to medical appointments (22%) and securing appointments (19%) pose additional challenges, with the average person spending an hour just traveling to and from their healthcare provider. Telehealth has emerged as a beneficial option for 36% of respondents, enhancing their connection with healthcare providers. However, 18% see their provider less than once a year or do not have one at all.

Looking ahead, 84% of Americans aspire to prioritize their health more as they age, with 65% currently feeling motivated to take better care of themselves. “All people deserve an equal opportunity to live their healthiest life possible, no matter who they are or where they live,” says Maguire.

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Cambia Health between September 19 and September 26, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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  1. Guess I’m just going to have to be weird. Feel great. Just lost 26.5 lbs doing an hour a day of exercise and a bit of eating restriction, great endurance considering my age of 76, sleep OK, eat whatever I want, just not so much of it right now. On track to lose 25 lbs more. Get down to 184, which is just shy of “overweight” for my height. Probably by May or so. Buying my own elliptical crosstrainer was the key. Being able to spread exercise over the day, rather than drive to gym, change clothes, exercise all in one go (much harder), change clothes, drive home, all took about 2 1/2 hours. Now just the time on the machine – 1 hour.

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