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Friday, December 31, 2010

Five Big 2010 Health Stories and Gallup’s Need-to-Know Analysis of Them

While brought you hundreds of unique health and wellbeing findings in 2010, we at Thrive want to jump on the end-of-year wrap-up story bandwagon and give you our insights on five of this year’s biggest health news stories.

The Affordable Care Act Becomes Law

President Obama on March 23, 2010, signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. The bill, in part, aims to expand coverage to the uninsured. The new law came as Gallup found the percentage of uninsured American adults remained elevated from early 2008 levels. Nearly one in six American adults were uninsured in November, up from 14.8% when Gallup began tracking healthcare coverage in January 2008. Gallup monitors Americans’ health insurance coverage daily and will continue to regularly report on it in the months and years ahead.

The First Lady Fights Obesity

Michelle Obama in February 2010 launched the national “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity in the United States. The program got started as Gallup tracked a rise in adult obesity; there are approximately 3 million more obese American adults now than there were at the start of 2008, when Gallup began asking Americans daily about their weight. The first lady’s program seeks to engage not just children, but also school leaders and families and promotes healthy eating and physical activity. Gallup also finds less than 3 in 10 American adults exercise regularly, so “Let’s Move” may be what the nation’s youngest generation needs to get America on a healthier track.

KFC Launches the Double Down

While Mrs. Obama was doing her best to help American families get healthy, KFC was taking advantage of an apparent hole in the marketplace for a breadless fried chicken, bacon, and cheese “sandwich.” The introduction of this grease-laden product came at a time when Gallup found less than half of Americans reporting eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables regularly. Additionally, Gallup data find low-income Americans -- a group who may be more likely to purchase low-cost and easily available fast food -- are already less likely to eat the government-recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and significantly more likely to be obese. So, KFC’s high-sodium, high-fat Double Down -- although certainly not the only unhealthy food choice in the world -- isn't serving Americans’ need for more highly nutritious diet options.

Californians Say No to Legalizing Marijuana

As Americans across the country voted for Republican candidates in huge numbers, California voters, by about a 10-point margin, rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized recreational marijuana use in the state. Gallup, in a national poll, conducted just a month before Californians voted on Proposition 19, found a new high of 46% of American adults supported making the use of marijuana legal. While 50% of Americans are still opposed to legalizing the substance, the percentage who support legalization has been steadily trending up since 2000.

U.K. Prime Minister Announces Plans to Measure Wellbeing

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron in November announced his plans to start measuring residents’ subjective wellbeing and use the data to inform policymaking. Cameron believes the nation needs a better way of tracking its progress, stating in a November speech that “GDP is an incomplete way of measuring a country’s progress.” The same week that the British government asked the national statistician to start devising wellbeing questions, Gallup was already out with its own findings on Britons’ wellbeing.

Gallup is a leader in measuring subjective wellbeing, engaging high-level experts including Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and well-known author and professor Ed Diener, in the creation of its metrics. Additionally, Gallup measures wellbeing worldwide in more than 150 countries, and tracks it daily in the United States. Continuing its dominance in the arena, Gallup will in January 2011 expand the breadth and frequency of its wellbeing tracking in the United Kingdom, asking existing questions monthly and adding the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index questions already asked in the U.S.

Gallup is also out today with its top 10 U.S. wellbeing discoveries in 2010.

To stay up to date on Gallup’s latest health and wellbeing findings in the United States, sign up to receive all of our wellbeing news via e-mail alert or RSS.

To get the latest news from Thrive as soon as it publishes, sign up for our feed via e-mail.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flu Drug Resistance Up, But Flu Sickness Down

Certain seasonal influenza A (H1N1) viruses have garnered a rare dual resistance to both adamantine and oseltamivir, the only two approved antiviral drugs on the market, according to a study published this month in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The study, which reviewed over 3,000 viruses across each of the last three influenza seasons from the U.S., Canada, China, Kenya, and Vietnam, concludes that a highly statistically significant increase in dual-resistance has taken place since the 2007-2008 influenza season.

While just 1 of 1,753 (0.06%) viruses tested in 2007-2008 were dual resistant, the number grew to 1.5% (21 of 1,426) in 2008-2009, and then jumped to 28% (7 of 25) in 2009-2010. Although the 2009-2010 sample is currently much smaller than the first two, the results are compellingly different. The researchers conclude that with greater resistance to drugs comes greater ability to spread.

By asking close to 30,000 randomly selected Americans each month whether or not they had a cold or the flu "yesterday," the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data provide insight into the prevalence of these conditions month over month throughout the course of the season.

In 2009-2010, self-reports of daily flu were far lower than the same months in 2008-2009, as Americans made special efforts to curtail the spread of H1N1 through both public health policy and common sense means.

Thus far in the 2010-2011 season, self-reports are down still further, with just 2.1% of Americans indicating that they were sick with the flu on any given day in November, compared with 2.4% in the same month last year, and 2.7% in November 2008.

So, while flu drug resistance is apparently on the rise, those getting sick with the flu in the U.S. are, so far at least, tracking in the other direction.

Dual-resistance influenza can be serious if you are very young or very old and get sick with H1N1. For those folks, anti-viral drugs can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Same with the small percentage of people in between that get especially sick. For everyone else, anti-virals are sort of a boutique drug; if you take them you usually kick your illness a day or so sooner.

Gallup will continue to monitor reports of colds and the flu in the United States and update and publish new updates on

Posted by Dan Witters

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Soda Tax Least Helpful to Those Most in Need of Cutting Back

A 40% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could result in an average annual weight loss of 1.3 pounds per person, according to a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The potential annual weight loss, however, drops to just half a pound among the poorest 25% of Americans. The high tax on store-bought sugary drinks would have the most influence on weight reduction among middle-income Americans.

The study’s authors analyzed data, collected over a 12-month period, on store-bought foods and beverages in U.S. households in 2006. They then used this to estimate the potential effects of a 20% and 40% tax on sugar-sweetened drinks.

The good news is that, in theory, a tax on sugary drinks -- if high enough -- may produce some weight loss among Americans. The bad news, though, is that it is least likely to affect the lowest income Americans -- those who, according to Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data, are the most likely to be obese.

More than 3 in 10 Americans who make less than $36,000 per year are obese, according to an article Gallup published in October of this year. Obesity declines as income increases, decreasing to 2 in 10 among those who make $90,000 or more per year.

The same article also revealed that the obesity problem is getting worse. More Americans in every income group have become obese since 2008, when Gallup began daily tracking of Americans’ weight.

So, while a sugary drink tax may not do much for those who are the most likely to be obese, Americans of all incomes could benefit from such an effort, which may make it worthwhile.

Gallup tracks Americans’ BMI daily as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and publishes new updates and analyses on To stay up to date on Gallup’s latest findings on obesity in the United States, sign up to receive all of our wellbeing news via e-mail alert or RSS.

To get the latest news from Thrive as soon as it publishes, sign up for our feed via e-mail.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Caregivers Need Care Too

About one in six Americans who work a full-time job tell Gallup they are also a caregiver -- meaning they take care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend. So in addition to the demands of working -- and for those who are parents, taking care of their children -- they also have to balance caring for another person’s medical, financial, and in many cases, day-to-day needs.

Gallup’s Dan Witters is out this week with a new analysis -- the first in a special multi-part series -- revealing that American caregivers have significantly lower wellbeing than those who don't carry the same responsibility.

Caregivers’ Well-Being Index score -- Gallup’s multi-dimensional measure of overall wellbeing -- is 66.4. Non-Caregivers’ Well-Being Index score is 70.2.

Witters’ article also details the specific areas of wellbeing in which caregivers suffer the most compared with non-caregivers and looks at the effects of caregiving on wellbeing by age.

AARP announced this week its new Ambassador for Care, Leeza Gibbons, who, according to the organization’s press release, “will bring information and resources to the more than 44 million Americans who are caregivers.”

Gibbons, who was herself a caregiver for her mother, noted in an interview about her new role, that caregiving can be “depleting, spiritually and financially,” and that families dealing with caregiving often risk “having the well members . . . become sick.”

Gallup’s research clearly shows that caregivers sacrifice their own wellbeing. For the individual, this can mean diminished physical and emotional health, as well as poorer financial and workplace wellbeing. For the employers they work for and the communities they live in, this could mean less productive and engaged workers and citizens.

Caregivers, however, are providing an important and necessary service for the people they are helping, and the Gallup data provide insight into areas in which family, friends, employers, and community leaders can proactively find ways to support America’s caregivers.

Future articles in the Gallup series will look more in-depth at caregivers’ emotional health, physical health, and daily energy, job satisfaction, and lost productivity.

To stay up to date on Gallup’s latest findings on caregivers in the United States, sign up to receive all of our wellbeing news via e-mail alert or RSS.

To get the latest news from Thrive as soon as it publishes, sign up for our feed via e-mail.

Are you a caregiver? Comment below and tell us how your caregiving responsibilities impact your wellbeing. Please share your ideas for how your employer or community could help support you.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Being Overweight Carries Risks Too

Obesity’s health risks, including death, are well-documented, but a new study from the New England Journal of Medicine, published Thursday, finds that being even just somewhat overweight is also associated with a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Specifically, overweight adults who started out healthy -- they didn’t smoke, did not have heart disease nor cancer -- were 13% more likely to die during the time the study followed them than those whose weight was in the ideal range.

These findings, from a pool of 19 separate studies encompassing 1.46 million participants, are in line with Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data showing overweight American adults are more likely than those who are at a normal weight to have diabetes, high blood pressure, or to have had a heart attack -- all of which can increase a person’s risk of dying.

The NEJM study found adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 20.0 and 24.9 had the lowest increased risk of death. Gallup categorizes Americans with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 as normal weight and also finds this group is significantly less likely than those who are overweight to report diabetes, high blood pressure, or having had a heart attack.

For the majority of Americans, the NEJM study is bad news. More than six in 10 American adults are either overweight or obese, as of the third quarter of 2010.

Gallup tracks Americans’ BMI daily as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and publishes new updates and analyses on To stay up to date on Gallup’s latest findings on obesity in the United States, sign up to receive all of our wellbeing news via e-mail alert or RSS.

To get the latest news from Thrive as soon as it publishes, sign up for our feed via e-mail.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How the U.S. Is Doing on Americans’ Top Health Concerns

Gallup is out with its annual survey on what Americans say are the most urgent health problems facing the country today. Healthcare access, healthcare costs, obesity, cancer, and government involvement in healthcare are this year’s top five concerns.

The full list:

Gallup’s Daily tracking of Americans’ health and wellbeing can serve as a benchmark for how the United States is currently doing on some of its citizens’ most pressing concerns.

Here are Gallup's latest wellbeing findings related to the top seven health concerns in the U.S.:

1.) Access: More than 16% of American adults were uninsured in October, similar to prior months this year, but up significantly from 2008.

2.) Cost: Data from January to June 2010 found 81.3% of Americans said they have not had trouble being able to afford the healthcare or medicines they or their family needed in the past 12 months.

3.) Obesity: Nearly 27% American adults were obese in the third quarter of 2010, up from 25.1% in the first quarter of 2008, when Gallup began tracking it.

4.) Cancer: 7.2% of Americans reported having been diagnosed with cancer in 2009, an increase from 6.9% in 2008. To see which groups of Americans are the most and least likely to have cancer, check out Gallup’s analysis of one million surveys.

5.) Government Involvement in Healthcare: Hop over to our politics news section for more on this.

6.) Heart Disease: About 5% of Americans report having had a heart attack, but this rises to more than 10% among Americans 65 years of age and older.

7.) Flu: Gallup tracks flu daily and finds the 2010 flu season off to a typical start with 1.7% of Americans reporting the flu on any given day in September.

One Million Surveys Provide Wellbeing Checkup for U.S.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index -- a daily survey of Americans’ health and wellbeing that launched in January 2008 -- completed its one-millionth survey on Oct. 23, 2010. Gallup has been analyzing and writing about the Well-Being Index since its inception and publishing findings on

Now, Gallup is out with a special report highlighting key trends and revealing new findings from the one million Well-Being Index surveys: One Million Surveys Reveal Portrait of Americans’ Wellbeing.

Here is a quick review of some key data points you will find in the report:

  • 67%: The all-time highest level of happiness in the U.S., recorded on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 20, 2008
  • 35%: The all-time lowest level of happiness in the U.S., recorded on Dec. 11, 2008 -- the same day new jobless claims reached a 26-year high
  • 73.9: The Well-Being Index score of Americans who earn $75,000 or more per year, higher than any other group analyzed and the only group with a score higher than 70
  • 56.5: The Well-Being Index score of Americans who earn less than $20,000 per year, lower than any other group analyzed and the only group with a score lower than 60
  • 26.6%: The percentage of obese American adults in the third quarter of 2010, up from 25.1% in the first quarter of 2008
  • 11.5%: The percentage of American adults with diabetes in the third quarter of 2010, up from 10.4% in the first quarter of 2008

Read the full report and discover dozens more new insights here.

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