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Snapshot: 2012 U.S. Cold and Flu Season Typical So Far

Snapshot: 2012 U.S. Cold and Flu Season Typical So Far

Average daily reports of 2.1% for flu, 7.1% for colds

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An average of 2.1% of Americans reported having the flu on any given day in October, up from 1.8% in September and 1.2% in August -- an upward climb that is on par with past years. And as usual, more Americans report having a cold than the flu -- with the 7.1% reporting having a cold the day prior to being interviewed in October, up from 5.7% in September and 3.2% in August. The percentage of daily flu or cold reports in October is also on par with levels from October of past years.

Monthly trend in colds and the flu since 2008

Colds and the flu in the U.S. follow a typical seasonal pattern, with more Americans reporting the illnesses in fall and winter -- when both peak -- and fewer in the spring in summer. The only time that pattern has not occurred was during the 2009-2010 season, when colds and the flu peaked in October amid the outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index asks 1,000 Americans each day whether they had a cold or the flu "yesterday."

There are key differences in daily reports of colds and the flu by group in the October interviewing:

  • Those in the East and Midwest were slightly more likely than those in the West and South to report having a cold. Flu rates were similar across regions.
  • Younger adults were more likely than those who are older to report both colds and the flu. Reports of colds and the flu generally decline with age.
  • Blacks were the most likely across races/ethnicities to report having a cold, while Hispanics were the most likely to report having the flu.
  • The lowest income Americans were more likely than higher-income groups to report both colds and the flu.
  • Women were slightly more likely than men to report having a cold, but both genders were equally likely to report the flu.
  • Smokers were much more likely than nonsmokers to say they have a cold or the flu.
  • Similarly, those with asthma were far more likely than those who don't have it to report having a cold and they were slightly more likely to say they had the flu.
  • Across all groups, those with asthma, smokers, and young adults were the most likely to say they had a cold the prior day in October. Seniors and those living in the South were the least likely.
  • Hispanics and low-income adults were the most likely to report having the flu on the prior day. Higher-income adults and seniors were the least likely.

These patterns by group are similar to what Gallup and Healthways have found in the past.

Cold and the Flu by Group in October

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks well-being in the U.S., U.K., and Germany and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index survey Oct. 1-31, 2012, with a random sample of 28,295 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cellphone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cellphone-only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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