Top 5 Health Concerns Among Americans

Surprisingly, Americans rank cancer high above infectious diseases like the Zika virus as their most significant health care concern.

Surprisingly, Americans rank cancer high above infectious diseases like the Zika virus as their most significant health care concern.

Earlier this month, the Mayo Clinic released its Pulse Check: Health Opinions and Behaviors in America report, which delved into Americans’ health perspectives on various issues. The survey found that the top 5 greatest health challenges in Americans’ minds are:

1. Cancer

2. Obesity

3. Neurological diseases

4. Diabetes

5. Heart disease

Asked about their perceptions of progress in treatments for these conditions, the survey respondents showed the most optimism about heart disease. Around 85% of the survey-takers said they thought progress was being made in heart disease treatments, with diabetes, cancer, neurological diseases, and obesity trailing behind.

The report also found that black and Hispanic individuals were more likely than their white counterparts to indicate that they believed progress is being made in treating obesity.

The “scariest” types of cancer were ranked as follows:

1. Brain: 38%

2. Pancreatic: 20%

3. Lung: 10%

4. Breast: 8%

5. Prostate: 7%

6. Colon: 5%

7. Skin: 5%

The majority of the survey-takers (84%) said they would be interested in a vaccine for cancer if it existed, although those from the West were more skeptical about a cancer vaccine than those living in the South, Northeast, and Midwest. Americans saw nutrition, exercise, limited alcohol, smoking cessation, sleep, and limited animal fats as critical ways to reduce their cancer risk.

The Baby Boomers generation showed more concern about brain health (63%), compared with Generation X (52%) and millennials (48%). To prevent brain issues, 75% of the respondents said physical exercise was important, and 71% said games and puzzles could help. In addition, 62% championed brain-healthy food, 38% lauded dietary supplements, and 30% credited yoga as other methods to keep up brain maintenance.

The majority of those surveyed said they developed headaches, and the following were some of the most common triggers mentioned:

  • Increased stress (63%)
  • Not eating (52%)
  • Not enough sleep (41%)
  • Too much to do (33%)

Less than three-quarters of the survey-takers defined a good night’s sleep as 7 to 8 hours, and less than half actually sleep that long. Men were more likely to say less than 6 hours of sleep was a still a good night’s sleep. If an individual doesn’t get enough sleep, the most common ways to make up for it were drinking more water, drinking caffeine, eating healthy food, exercising, taking supplements, and eating fatty foods. The respondents also noted that children in the house didn’t impact how often the adults were able to get enough sleep in one night.

“Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest motivator for prioritizing sleep was improving mood, which beat out options such as extending life span and preventing neurological diseases, such as dementia,” stated John T. Wald, MD, medical director for public affairs at Mayo Clinic, in a press release. “This seems to support the idea that Americans are focused on the immediate, rather than long-term impact of their actions, which is helpful in how we look to positively influence consumer health behaviors.”

When looking at a presidential candidate’s views on health care, Americans cared most about what he or she could do to lower costs (79% of Americans said this was a major factor). Improving quality (78%) was next most important, followed by improving access (72%) and increasing research funding (63%). Overall, 95% of the respondents said health care influenced their decisions for presidential candidates.

The survey was conducted in July 2016 and involved 1012 adults in the continental United States.