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How�s Your Health?

How�s Your Health?

As the country continues to contemplate major issues like financial recovery and nationwide health care, a study released by Royal Philips Electronics shows that three-quarters of Americans feel generally positive about their overall health and well-being. But a closer look shows that despite Americans' claims and culture of stalwart optimism, there are some surprisingly large gaps between the reported sense of overall optimism and how satisfied consumers actually are about the factors that make up individual health and well-being.

According to the data, Americans are maintaining their optimism, but when asked about contributors to their health and well-being, several important factors are chipping away at their positive outlook for the coming year.

The Philips Index: America's Health and Well-being Report 2010 is the first research report to be released by The Philips Center for Health and Well-being, a knowledge-sharing forum that provides a focal point to raise the level of discussion on what matters most to people, communities and thought leaders. The Center will bring together experts for dialogue and debate aimed at overcoming barriers and identifying possible solutions for meaningful change that can improve people's overall health and well-being. Information can be found at https://www.philips-thecenter.org.

The data show that 74% of Americans rate their overall health and well-being as very good or good, with men being slightly more optimistic than women. In a similar study conducted by Philips in 2004, respondents reported the same level of positivity when asked about their physical health. However, after balancing how Americans feel about various aspects of well-being versus how important each of these is to them, the overall weighted Philips Index is 55% -- a 19-point drop. This weighted approach also shows that the area of greatest concern is jobs and economic security (39%), while Americans are most content with their friends and family life (69%). In fact, nearly three-quarters of the country (74%) admit that the economy is a top concern -- up from 40% in 2004.

Katy Hartley, director of the Philips Center for Health and Well-being, notes, "The Index reveals that Americans are struggling to remain optimistic as they balance concerns about personal finance, stress and the ability to spend quality time with friends and family. The data also show that Americans think they are far healthier than other national data proves."

Reality Versus Perception

According to these latest findings, Americans are not evaluating their weight accurately, a key factor in overall health and well-being. Just 39% of Americans consider themselves overweight; in stark contrast to a report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics which finds more than two-thirds (67%) of American adults to be either overweight or obese. In addition, 80% believe they are in excellent or generally good health. But when asked about their actual physical activity, only 51% feel they are as physically fit as they could be, a mere 29% believe they are in better shape than ever, and 66% admit they wished they exercised more.

Docs Still Tops but Web Growing

Doctors remain the number 1 go-to source when Americans are sick. According to this study, Americans are twice as likely to turn to doctors than they are to use any other source. Doctors also ranked at the top of the list in Philips' 2004 study. Nearly half (48%) of Americans chose doctors as their first source of information in 2004, while 53% did so in 2009. The Web has emerged as a more important source for consumers in the current study, a change from 2004 when family members and friends came second after the doctor as a first stop for health information. The study shows that the Internet has now surpassed friends and family as the favored source for health-related information.

Although 45% of Americans actually avoid going to the doctor as much as possible, when they do go, 71% still follow "doctor's orders" and follow through with the recommended treatment.

More than three quarters (76%) believe that medical technology will allow them to live longer and a similar%age (74%) feel it is their responsibility to figure out which technologies will help them improve their health and well-being, according to the study. Surprisingly, more women than men were in favor of using technology to improve their health and well-being, scoring higher in areas such as using lighting to reduce stress, wearing a monitor that can summon emergency help, and using a device to help plan healthy meals.

35 Is the New 40

Where 40 used to be widely considered as the milestone that defined middle age, according to the Index overall stress and concerns about health have forced Americans to lower that bar to 35. Among 25-34 year-olds, 83% feel their health and well-being has stayed the same or improved in the last year. That number drops considerably to just 67% of 35-44 year-olds. Similarly, approximately half (48%) of those ages 25-34 go to the doctor about once a year, but that number climbs to 67% for those in the 35-44 age bracket. Stress is a dividing factor too, with double the number (24%) of 35-44-year-olds reporting that they experience a lot of stress, compared to only 12% of 25-34-year-olds. Factors contributing to stress at the "new age for middle age" included concerns about the economy (79%) and the cost of healthcare (75%).

Time for Friends Is Today's "Bonus"

According to a December 2009 study by Deloitte & Touche, 85% of large companies did away with across-the-board annual merit raises; executives fared somewhat worse than the rank and file, with 66% of senior managers seeing either no increase in their pay or a salary reduction, versus 54% of employees in the same boat. In today's turbulent economic climate, Americans have learned to do more with less and to look beyond salary increases or bonuses for feelings of well-being and satisfaction.

The Philips Index: America's Health and Well-being report 2010 shows that when Americans seek to improve their health and well-being, they spend time with friends and family (87%), relaxing (84%), going outdoors (79%) or pursuing hobbies (69%). Relationships with family and friends are the top-rated contributors to health and well-being and the amount of time available to spend with friends and family is also rated very highly. Conversely, people's job, relationship with their boss, and how much they earn are perceived as far less important.

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