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A Toast to Good Health

by Deborah Jordan Brooks, Gallup Tuesday Briefing Correspondent

This is the first article in a series on the health of American adults.

During the holiday season, many people offer thanks for the good health of friends and family over the past year, and wishes for good health in the coming year. Gallup data collected last month* show that most people have much to be thankful for, with the vast majority saying that they are in good or excellent physical health. Most also report that their physical health didn't leave them unable to perform normal daily activities during the last month.

Overall Health

Only 6% of Americans report that they are in poor physical health, while another 14% report that they are in fair health. Of the remainder, 45% report that they are in good health and a lucky 34% say they are in excellent health.

What does the fact that most Americans report being in good or excellent health mean in terms of their day-to-day lives? For one thing, a majority of people (53%) reported that there were no days during the past month when their physical health was not good. Seventeen percent reported that they experienced fewer than one to two days of poor health, while another 7% reported three to four days of feeling under the weather. Yet a sizable 19% -- nearly one in five people -- had five or more days in the past month when they felt their health was not good, and 10% had 11 or more days of poor health.

There is a range of possible definitions of "good health"; some might consider a case of the sniffles to be a bad health day, while others may say the same only if they cannot get out of bed. In an effort to look at how poor health is adversely affecting people's daily lives, Gallup asked a more specific question: "During the past month, for about how many days did poor physical health keep you from doing your usual activities, such as self-care, work or recreation?" Though 53% of people said that there were no days in the past month when they felt that their health was not good, an even greater number -- 72% -- said that they experienced no days in the past month when poor physical health actually affected their daily activities. Another 13% reported experiencing fewer than one to four days when their daily activities were affected by poor health, while 12% of people said poor physical health kept them from doing their usual activities for five or more days in the past month.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 8-11, 2002. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error is ±3%.


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