Americans in Denial About Obesity, Health

September 11, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Food & Restaurants | Pharma & Healthcare

Perceptions in the US about obesity, illness and wellness appear to contradict national statistics and reveal that Americans think they are healthier than they actually are, according to a survey by Mintel.

On the weighty issue of obesity, people seem to be in denial, Mintel said.? Only 25% of survey respondents said they suffer from or have been diagnosed as obese or overweight. But according to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), two-thirds (67%) fall into one of 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 study also found that seven in 10 survey respondents (71%) told Mintel they think they’re in excellent or good health. However, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ Connected Care reported that 100 million Americans (roughly one-third) suffer from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes or hypertension.

On the topic of exercise, 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.

Mintel reported that the disparity between perceived health and actual behavior is even more apparent when it comes to food. Nearly two-thirds of? respondents (65%) say they “try to eat healthier food these days,” but nearly the same percentage (59%) say they eat the foods they like “regardless of calories.”? Similarly, just more than half (52%) say they’re on a diet, but nearly the same number (45%) feel they often overeat.

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.”

“People have lofty, admirable goals of eating healthier, exercising more and treating their bodies better,” said Krista Faron, senior analyst at Mintel. “Our research suggests though, that implementation of these goals is challenging.”

Meeting this challenge, Faron said, lies in getting Americans to accept and admit that their health isn’t the best and also in getting companies to take initiatives to help consumers. “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.”

On a more positive note relating to Americans’ health,? Gallup recently announced that its national “Well-Being Index” hit an all-time high of 67.0 in August.

About the research: Survey findings are further detailed in Mintel’s “Healthy Living” report, which was released in July 2009.

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