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Most Americans in Good Health This Thanksgiving

by Joseph Carroll

Eighty-one percent say their physical health is “excellent” or “good”

PRINCETON, NJ -- As Americans sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year, many will give thanks for their family and their health. Gallup's annual Health and Healthcare survey finds the vast majority of Americans rating their physical health positively this year, similar to results measured over the past six years. Americans report that poor physical health has affected them an average of four days in the past month, with an average of three days where poor health has prevented them from carrying out their usual activities. Younger Americans and those living in higher-income households are among the groups most likely to rate their health positively.

Americans Assess Their Health

According to the Nov. 11-14, 2007 poll, more than 8 in 10 Americans describe their physical health at this time as "excellent" (31%) or "good" (50%), while just 19% say it is "only fair" (15%) or "poor" (4%). Americans' assessment of their physical health has not shown much change since Gallup first started tracking this measure in 2001. Over the past six years, the percentage saying their physical health is excellent or good has ranged between 78% and 82%, with the percentage saying their health is excellent between 28% and 34%.

In the past month, Americans say they have experienced four days in which their physical health was not good. But a majority of Americans, 53%, did not experience any days of poor physical health. Twenty-two percent had up to four days, and 22% had five or more days of poor health.

Americans report an average of 2.9 days in the past month in which "poor health kept [them] from doing their usual activities, such as self-care, work, or recreation." Twelve percent had up to four such days, and 16% had five or more days like this. The solid majority of Americans, 69%, say poor physical health in the past month did not keep them from doing their usual activities.

Among the smaller group who say they have experienced poor physical health in the past month, the average number of days in which their health prevented them from doing their normal activities was 6.5 days.

Younger versus Older Americans

An aggregate of over 4,000 interviews conducted between 2004 and 2007 shows that the ratings of health decline with increasing age.

The majority of Americans at any age describe their health as either excellent or good, but the percentage describing their health as "excellent" is substantially higher among younger Americans than it is among older Americans. Of 18- to 29-year-olds, 41% say their physical health is excellent, while at the other end of the spectrum, just 12% of those aged 80 and older say this.

Older Americans, particularly those aged 80 and older, report a greater numbers of days per month of poor physical than do younger Americans. Americans aged 80 and older report an average of 5.9 days of poor physical health in the past month. Among those who are younger, this average ranges between 1.7 days and 3.0 days.

Higher- versus Lower-Income Households

Americans residing in higher-income households are much more likely to describe their physical health positively at this time than those in lower-income households.

As the table illustrates, 43% of Americans earning $75,000 per year or more rate their physical health as excellent. This percentage drops considerably among those earning less, with a low of 14% among those residing in households earning less than $20,000 per year. It is still important to note that a majority of Americans at all income levels say their health is either excellent or good.

Americans earning less than $20,000 per year also report more days in which their health was not good in the past month. On average, those earning less than $20,000 per year report an average of 4.6 days of poor physical health in the past month. Those at higher income levels report an average of one to three days of poor health.

Americans residing in lower-income households are less likely to report that their physical health is positive regardless of age than those in higher-income households. This means that older Americans in high-income households are more likely to say their health is good right now than older Americans in lower-income households. Similarly, self-reported health is more optimistic among younger Americans in high-income households than among younger Americans in lower-income households.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,014 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 11-14, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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