Is 35 the New 40?

January 19, 2010 ( - Though 40 once was widely considered something of a milestone that defined middle age, a new survey suggests that overall stress and concerns about health are bringing that threshold lower.

According to a new study released by Royal Philips Electronics, among 25-34 year-olds, 83% feel their health and well-being has stayed the same or improved in the last year, but only 67% of 35-44 year-olds surveyed felt that way.  Similarly, approximately half (48%) of those ages 25-34 go to the doctor about once a year, but that number climbs to 67% for those in the 35-44 age bracket.     

The survey’s authors suggest that stress is a dividing factor too, with double the number (24%) of 35-44-year-olds reporting that they experience a lot of stress, compared to only 12% in the younger bracket.  Factors contributing to stress at the “new age for middle age” included concerns about the economy (79%) and the cost of healthcare (75%).      

Perception Gaps

According to “The Philips Index: America’s Health and Well-being Report 2010”, while three-quarters of Americans feel generally positive about their overall health and well-being, a closer look reveals large gaps between the reported sense of overall optimism and how satisfied Americans actually are about the factors that the survey attributes to individual health and well-being.

In a similar study conducted by Philips in 2004, respondents reported the same level of positivity (about 74%) when asked about their physical health.  However, after balancing how Americans feel about various aspects of well-being versus how important each of these is to them, the overall weighted Philips Index is just 55%. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the country (74%) admit that the economy is a top concern – up from 40% in 2004.      

Katy Hartley, Director of The Philips Center for Health and Well-being, notes, “The Index reveals that Americans are struggling to remain optimistic as they balance concerns about personal finance, stress and the ability to spend quality time with friends and family.  The data also show that Americans think they are far healthier than other national data proves.” 

Relationships with family and friends are the top-rated contributors to health and well-being and the amount of time available to spend with friends and family is also rated very highly. Conversely, people’s job, relationship with their boss, and how much they earn are perceived as far less important.  In fact, when Americans seek to improve their health and well-being, they spend time:      

  • With friends and family (87%),
  • Relaxing (84%),
  • Going outdoors (79%), or
  • Pursuing hobbies (69%).  

Weight Watchers?       

On the matter of health, the survey says that just 39% of Americans consider themselves overweight, and while 80% of respondents to the Philips research said they felt they were in excellent or generally good health, they didn’t seem to be doing much to sustain that.  Asked about their actual physical activity, only 51% feel they are as physically fit as they could be, and while 29% thought they were in better shape than ever, 66% wished they exercised more.      

According to this study, Americans are twice as likely to turn to doctors than they are to use any other source; nearly half (48%) of Americans chose doctors as their first source of information in 2004, while 53% did so in 2009. The Web has emerged as a more important source for consumers in the current study, a change from 2004 when family members and friends came second after the doctor as a first stop for health information.  That said, 45% of Americans said they avoid going to the doctor as much as possible – but when they do go, 71% still follow “doctor’s orders” and follow through with the recommended treatment.   

More than three quarters (76%) believe that medical technology will allow them to live longer and a similar percentage (74%) feel it is their responsibility to figure out which technologies will help them improve their health and well-being, according to the study.  More women than men were in favor of using technology to improve their health and well-being, scoring higher in areas such as using lighting to reduce stress, wearing a monitor that can summon emergency help, and using a device to help plan healthy meals.     

The Philips Index is based on a nationally representative sample of 1,503 adult Americans ages 18-65+ who were surveyed by telephone between November 23 and December 7, 2009. According to a press release, The Philips Index, which will be expanded in scope in 2010 to include other global markets, examines the mega-trends that shape each nation’s healthcare, lifestyle and who we are as a society, with a focus on what aspects of health and well-being are most important, how satisfied people are with these aspects, and the role that technology plays in helping society maintain better health and well-being. This year’s report includes a five-year perspective based on a similar study in 2004.        

A complete version of the Philips Index: America’s Health and Well-being Report 2010 can be downloaded at