“What’s your health worth?” It may seem like a simple question, yet everyone values their health in different ways. Is good health worth a little extra time to you, or a little extra money? If someone offered to pay you to gain 20 pounds, how much would they have to give you before you took the offer?
The 2015 IFIC Foundation Food and Health Survey examines the question of how Americans value their health, delving into the trade-offs Americans make regarding health and nutrition on an everyday basis. These findings provide a wealth of new insights into Americans’ health and nutrition, including perceptions of their own health, an economic divide on food-purchasing decisions, where health and nutrition rank among competing priorities, and the guidance Americans’ want for dietary and health-related choices.
Self-perception vs. reality
Over the Survey’s 10-year history, Americans have consistently rated their health highly. This year is no exception, as 57% of Americans rate their own health as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent.’ Only 8% of Americans rate their health as ‘fair,’ and 1% as ‘poor.’
But do Americans’ perceptions of their health match up with reality? Results show that 55% of those who rated themselves in ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ health are either overweight or obese.
Though perceived health status doesn’t appear to correlate with weight status, results show that individuals who see their health as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ report being treated for fewer chronic health conditions. In fact, 62% of those who rate their health as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ health do not report being treated for any of the conditions listed, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, among others.
An economic divide
This year’s Survey results revealed many large divides between higher and lower income consumers, especially when it came to their purchasing behaviors. Higher-income consumers (above $75,000 per year) appear to be more focused on how foods are produced or sourced, and are significantly more likely than other consumers to buy foods because they were labeled as locally sourced, having no added hormones or steroids, or organic. The Survey results also show that higher-income consumers are more likely to report avoiding many specific food components and ingredients.
We also see an economic divide when it comes to perceptions of processed foods. Half of Americans (51%) acknowledge that foods would cost more if processed foods were hypothetically removed from the food supply, with 45% also saying food would become less convenient. While 43% say the impact of removing processed foods would be improved health or nutrition, higher-income consumers were more likely to answer that way. Lower-income Americans (at or below $35,000 per year), however, are most concerned about cost impacts if processed foods were removed from the food supply.