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Mind the gap: Health goals and realities can be two different things, survey finds 

New research from Mintel reveals that more than half (55 percent) of Americans say they lived a healthier lifestyle in 2017 compared to the year prior, and 45 percent say they have made dramatic changes to improve their health. But the report also reveals the gap between people’s health goals and and actual achievements.

While nearly all (90 percent) Americans consider their overall lifestyle to be ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ healthy, it seems consumers’ definition of healthy living and their day-to-day reality does not always align. Despite the fact that three in four adults consider eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep (76 percent, respectively) to be a part of a healthy lifestyle, only half say they regularly do either (52 percent respectively). A similar pattern is seen with regard to exercise; while 74 percent say regular exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, just 53 percent say they do so regularly. Still, a determined 13 percent of consumers say they are strict with themselves to ensure they stay as healthy as possible.

Although physical health is a top priority, mental and emotional health habits are also high on the list. Three in five (60 percent) consumers consider feeling emotionally stable as part of a healthy lifestyle, with women, particularly older women, more likely to agree. In fact, 67 percent of women prioritize feeling emotionally stable, rising to 73 percent of women aged 55+. What’s more, half (51 percent) of consumers overall believe dedicating time to relaxation is important to a healthy lifestyle, rising to 54 percent of women and 60 percent of women aged 55+.

“Today, consumers associate a variety of actions with ‘healthy living,’ indicating that companies in the health and wellness space need to take into account that living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to all people. Adults are more likely to associate healthy living with physical or quantifiable health habits, which may in part be due to advances in technology as it continues to play an important role in the way consumers are able to monitor and track their health,” said Gina Cavato, Lifestyles and Leisure Analyst at Mintel. “However, our research shows that consumers aren’t always taking action and perceptions of health may not be the reality, likely driven by adults comparing their own health to similarly unhealthy peers. This means that companies need to work harder to understand who their target audience is and provide solutions for living a healthier lifestyle.”

“However, our research shows that consumers aren’t always taking action and perceptions of health may not be the reality”

While consumers recognize that diet and exercise are important factors for living healthy lives, many struggle with motivation to maintain healthy habits. Half of consumers who don’t maintain a healthy lifestyle all of the time cite motivation as their biggest obstacle to keeping up with exercise (50 percent) and healthy eating (48 percent) habits.

Furthermore, consumers are more likely to cite time as an obstacle to staying active/exercising (32 percent) than keeping up healthy eating habits (25 percent). Cost rounds out the list of top barriers to healthy living with two in five (40 percent) consumers who don’t maintain healthy eating habits all of the time agreeing that healthy foods are too expensive, while 16 percent agree it’s too expensive to stay active.

For those able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it seems balance is key with more than three quarters (78 percent) of consumers agreeing that healthy choices can be balanced by small indulgences. However, consumers may be taking their ‘small indulgences’ a bit too far as more than half (54 percent) of consumers agree that they feel bad about themselves when they make unhealthy choices.

“Consumers know what a healthy lifestyle entails, but they struggle to regularly make healthy choices due to issues with motivation, cost, and time. While brands can take steps to mitigate price and time constraints, motivating consumers involves tapping into and resonating with their emotions. Messaging about the whole-body benefits of healthy living, including emotional well-being, may help encourage consumers to keep up with healthy habits. Brands can also work to change the perception that eating healthy is cost prohibitive and offer healthy products that help consumers save time,” continued Cavato.

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About the Author

Jim Manson

Writer & Editor
Jim Manson is editor-in-chief of Diversified Communications UK‘s natural and organic publishing portfolio. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, and World Bank Urban Age

Articles by Jim Manson

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