Allergies Afflict 10% of US Adults on Average Day

November 17, 2010

More than 1 in 10 US adults, on average, report being sick with allergies on any given day of the year, according to Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data.

2010 Fall Allergy Season Resembles 2008

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Gallup and Healthways began asking Americans about allergy sickness in September 2008 and have continued to do so in Gallup Daily tracking surveys since then. The question specifically asks, “Were you sick with allergies yesterday?” providing a real-time gauge of how many American adults are sick with allergies at a given time of year, although the allergies are self-diagnosed rather than diagnosed by a medical professional.

To date, the 2010 fall allergy season looks nearly identical to that of 2008, and slightly worse than 2009, with an average of 15.3% of U.S. adults reporting they were sick with allergies on any given day in October, and 16.8% saying so in September. The Gallup-Healthways trend suggests reports of allergies will continue to decline until January, and then start to consistently increase until peaking again in April and May.

Fewer Americans report allergies in the summer than in the spring and fall but more than in the winter. Reports of allergies climb to more than 15% in the fall and exceed 18% in the spring. Still, survey data shows more than one in 10 adults report being sick with allergies even in the winter months, which is more than report being sick with a cold or flu, even at the height of cold and flu season.

Women Most Likely to Report Allergies

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Survey data indicates women are the most likely of major demographic groups to report being sick with allergies, while men are the least likely to do so. However, Well-Being analysis suggests men are less likely to report health issues than women and also asthma, which affects women more than men, has symptoms that can be mistaken for allergies.

Low-income, Southern Americans More Likely to Report Allergies

Low-income Americans (those making less than $36,000 per year) are the second most likely to report being sick with allergies, while those with the highest incomes (those making $90,000 or more per year) are among the least likely. Well-Being Index analysis suggests the income gap could be the result of wide disparities across incomes across all health and wellbeing metrics, including access to health insurance and money for and access to medicine. Low-income Americans are also more likely to have asthma than high-income Americans.

Those living in the South are the third most likely group to report being sick with allergies, while the likelihood of respondents who live in the West, East, and Midwest to report being sick with allergies are remarkably similar.

Asian-Americans are among the least likely to report being sick with allergies and less so than other races, aligning with other Well-Being Index data that often find Asians to be among the healthiest Americans.

Other Findings

  • One in three (33%) of those who report being sick with allergies also report having been diagnosed with asthma.
  • Both allergy and asthma sufferers are slightly more likely than non-sufferers to say they smoke.
  • While the ability to become allergic is hereditary, exposure to allergens, access to medical treatment, and perhaps numerous other factors likely play a role in whether symptoms ultimately manifest.

Well-Being Index Score Steadily Rises with Income

In other Well-Being Index findings, research shows a Well-Being Index composite score of 57.2 among those making less than $24,000 per year, which compares negatively with the 67.7 score among the middle class and the 74.3 score among high-income Americans. The scores reflect 55 individual items that collectively measure Americans’ physical, emotional, and fiscal well-being.

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