A professional man walking in a crowd along a city street.

A poll finds that Americans are concerned about their health, and have varied ideas of what causes health problems and what can be done to improve health.

The Issue:

Researchers explored a number of questions in surveys to determine Americans’ beliefs and concerns about health.

Key Findings Include

  • Most people are concerned about their health—very concerned (31%) or somewhat concerned (31%).

  • Americans do not see a single most important cause of individuals’ health problems. Top causes of health problems range from lack of access to high-quality medical care (42%), personal behavior (40%), viruses or bacteria (40%), high stress (37%), and being exposed to pollution (35%).

  • African-Americans are more likely than whites to see lack of access to care (56% v 41%), God’s will (41% v 29%), and low income (45% v 23%) as causes of health problems.

  • A substantial number of Americans report having had negative experiences in childhood that they believe impacted their future health. Nearly four in 10 Americans (39%) report that they had one or more childhood experiences that they believe have had a harmful effect on their health later in life.

  • The top five actions that Americans believe would improve health: access to affordable healthy food; reducing illegal drug use; reducing air, water, or chemical pollution; increasing access to quality health care; and improving the economy and job availability.

About the Study:

This telephone survey was conducted September–October 2014 as part of an ongoing series developed by a team of researchers at NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

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