Posted - March 10, 2010

Other People Are Unhealthy – Not Me

A new survey shows that while Americans may be aware of today’s growing obesity problem, most people believe it’s a problem affecting someone else.

A survey commissioned by GE Healthcare, The Cleveland Clinic, and Ochsner Health System asked more than 2,000 people from across the United States questions about their own health and the health of the nation as a whole. More than 50% of the respondents agreed that other people’s health was “going in the wrong direction,” but only 17% felt that they were among that group. Similarly, the survey found that most people think they’re healthier than their doctors believe them to be. Why the disconnect?

“Either people are denying reality about themselves or they don’t have the correct knowledge and believe they are doing the right things,” said study author Dr. Michael Roizen, chairman of The Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “Personally, I think there is a lot of misinformation [about healthy habits].” However, Roizen also noted that physicians may have an exaggerated view of the state of the general population’s health because they tend to only see the people who are the sickest.

Another possible explanation for how people view their own health may be that they’re comparing themselves to their unhealthy and overweight peers. Eva To, a New York dietitian, explained that “Everything is relative. In America, everything is big. But if you put them in an Asian country, they will compare themselves to someone else.”

As obesity continues to rise in America, this survey may shed some light on why people aren’t taking preventative measures to safeguard against obesity-related health problems. It may be a combination of misinformation and misperception.