Study: Disparity Exists Between Health Perception and Fact

March 1, 2005 ( - A new study is stating that American workers may say that they are healthy but in fact are from it.

According to a study of 1,004 adults conducted by Destiny Health, 67% of Americans feel that they are physically active, and only 30% feel that they are overweight. However, the study points out that according to Department of Health and Human Services figures, 60% of Americans do not get enough exercise, and 64% are overweight. Therefore, the study asserts that there is a disparity in perception and reality when it comes to worker health.

“More than anything, the study shows the need for a new definition for the word, ‘healthy’,” said Destiny Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Charles Schutz in a press release. “It proves that Americans tend to see themselves as well until they are actively sick. Their definition of healthy is ‘I feel fine.’ That is a dangerous notion that needs to be replaced by the understanding that a person is healthy only when he or she is living a healthy lifestyle and is regularly monitoring key risk factors, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Furthermore, 75% of respondents said they were healthy. To show that a disparity exists here as well, the Destiny Health study cited the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation statistic that states that almost 50% of the country lives with at least one chronic health condition.

Workers do seem to realize they could be healthier, but most fail to act, the study also shows. While 88% say that they could improve their health by eating better, 43% still admit to eating fast food at least once a week, and 90% say that they eat processed snacks regularly.

To fix the problem of misperception, Schutz suggests that four steps need to be taken to increase health and promote engagement for employees:

  • lay the groundwork for changes in health by establishing a baseline or goal employees can work towards
  • build enthusiasm for the program and have senior executives lead by example
  • reward position behavior so that there is an incentive to become healthier; the study cites programs that lower health care costs for workers who are in better shape.
  • measure results so that employees know where they stand.