Americans set to repeat unhealthy habits this holiday season

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Heading into the 2010 holiday shopping season, Americans appear ready to repeat unhealthy eating and exercise habits, according to the latest Gallup-Healthways well-being index released Thursday.


The WBI healthy behavior sub-index — which measures incidence of smoking, eating healthy, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and exercise — slipped for the third consecutive month, falling to 63.8 in October. The percentage of respondents who exercised three or more times a week has dropped two points since July to 51.7%, while the percent who said they ate healthy and the percent consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables each day both dropped in the same time period.


The percentage of respondents who report smoking has remained consistent in nearly three years of measurement, hovering around October’s 20.6% with very little variation.


Over the past two years that Gallup-Healthways has been measuring WBI, the healthy behavior sub-index dropped steadily from September through December before recovering in January, once everyone made their New Year’s resolutions.



The physical health sub-index, which measures the number of sick days used in the past month, obesity, cold, flu and headaches, among other things, dropped to 76.2 in October from 76.6 in September. Daily flu incidents increased by one point, and daily cold increased by four, both very much in line with previous years. Seasonal influences and increased rates of headache likely will create a drag on the PHI through the end of the cold-and-flu season in March, Gallup-Healthways reported.


The WBI, which helps illustrate the picture of American well-being across several matrices, recently tabulated its 1 millionth survey. The WBI is a daily assessment of U.S. residents' health and well-being. By interviewing at least 1,000 U.S. adults every day, the WBI provides real-time measurement and insights needed to improve health, increase productivity and lower healthcare costs. Public and private sector leaders use data on life evaluation, physical health, emotional health, healthy behavior, work environment and basic access to public services to develop and prioritize public initiatives.


“Prior to this work, how well-being was intertwined with daily life was unknown,” stated Nikki Duggan, Healthways lead WBI data analyst. “We didn’t know the impact elements, such as happiness, anger, stress, health status, employment status and neighborhood safety, had on the whole,” she said. “Through these million people sharing their lives, we have uncovered incredibly valuable insight for our country and its people. We have heard both concern and hope over the past three years of our surveying.”



The survey’s inception in January 2008 provided researchers with a snapshot of America prior to the recession, and also a baseline against which to measure the impact of the stock market crash in October of that year. Within two months, overall well-being fell 2.8 points, while life evaluation index scores, the measure of people’s current life perception and hope for the future fell 5.6 points within one month.


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