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Who Most Influences Lifestyle Choices?

In June and July 2011, Edelman’s StrategyOne (www.strategyone.net)  interviewed 15,165 people in 12 countries, including 5,000 in the United States. Online interviews were conducted in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Face-to-face interviews were conducted in Brazil, China, India and Mexico.Edelman’s researchers asked a number of questions about health-related behaviors and attitudes and used the data to create the Edelman Health Barometer for 2011. This is the third year that Edelman has created a global health barometer (available at http://healthbarometer.edelman.com/).

Researchers found that people believe that friends and family have as much responsibility for their personal health as do their healthcare providers.  After ‘themselves’, nearly half (43%) of respondents believe that their friends and family have the most impact on their lifestyle as it relates to health, and more than a third (36%) believe friends and family have the most impact on personal nutrition. Data also show that people who model a healthier lifestyle fail to connect actively with others who may benefit from their example, knowledge and support. Nearly one third of people (31%) – predominantly those with healthier behaviors – tend to distance themselves from friends who engage in unhealthy behaviors.

The survey reveals an “action gap” between the desire to be healthier and the ability to change. More than half of the global public engages in at least one negative health behavior, such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise or tobacco use. Though 62% of respondents said they tried to change a negative health behavior, half of those people failed, primarily because of addiction/dependency and a lack of enjoyment or immediate reward. A lack of ongoing support from friends, family or other resources, also contributed to an inability to make healthy changes stick.

Globally, 82% of respondents believe it is important for business to improve and maintain the health of the public, yet only 32% said business is currently doing a good job. People want business to engage in health in a number of specific ways, including through educating the public, innovation, and improving the health of employees and their communities.
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