CINCINNATI — There are many ways to assess a person’s health. One way is to ask people to evaluate their own health. In 2015, nearly half of Ohio adults (47 percent) reported that their health was excellent or very good. More than three in 10 (33 percent) said that their health was good. However, two in 10 (20 percent) said their health was fair or poor. These percentages are about the same as in 2014, and are similar to national figures. Research has found a powerful link between people’s response to this question and the predicted length and quality of their lives. Results are from the 2015 Ohio Health Issues Poll (OHIP), sponsored by Interact for Health.
“Currently, Ohio is in a tie for 31st out of 50 states in the percentage of adults reporting excellent or very good health,” says Jennifer Chubinski, Ph.D., Vice President, Innovation and Learning, Interact for Health. “To better understand what might improve these numbers, OHIP also asked Ohio adults to name the most important thing they could do to improve their health.”
Exercise, better diet are most common changes needed to improve health
OHIP asked respondents to name the most important thing they could do to improve their health status by one level (for example, from good to very good). Responses varied widely, but most could be placed into several broad categories.
Increase exercise was the most common response to this question, from nearly 3 in 10 adults. Specific answers ranged from identifying activities such as walking, running, or weight lifting, to simply saying they should be more active. This aligns with existing knowledge about the value of exercise to health; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers, and increase a person’s chance of living longer.
Improve diet was the second most frequently identified category, among nearly 2 in 10 adults. Specific responses included answers such as eat more vegetables, eat less fast food, and eat less sugar.
Nearly one in 10 Ohio adults gave responses in each of the categories below:
• Lose weight
• Improve access to health care (such as better health insurance or medical care)
• Quit smoking.
Current health status affects what’s needed to improve health
The most common changes identified to improve health differed based on respondents’ current health status. Among adults with better health (excellent, very good, or good), exercise was the most frequently identified change to improve health. Improved diet was the next most frequently named. Among adults with worse health (fair or poor), there was no single category that rose to the top. Exercise and diet were identified, but losing weight, improvement in a health problem, and improved access to health care were named just as often. Responses related to changing a medical condition included comments about needing better pain management, needing to recover from diabetes, cancer, depression, or another medical condition, or generally needing to “get well.” Responses related to improved access to health care included a need for more frequent doctor’s visits, better health insurance, or better medical care.
Willpower, time, money among the most common barriers to health improvement
Next OHIP asked, “What is the greatest barrier to making that change?”
More than two in 10 adults felt they did not have adequate willpower, motivation, or the proper attitude to make the health change they had identified. More than one in 10 identified the greatest barrier as time – they did not have enough time or were too busy to make this health change.
Around one in 10 adults named a financial barrier – they could not afford to make the change that would improve their health. Another one in 10 identified a current health condition as the greatest barrier.
Majority see health change as difficult; perceived as harder among adults with lower income
OHIP also asked Ohio adults how difficult it would be to make the health change they had identified. About six in 10 (61 percent) felt that the change would be difficult or very difficult. Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) said it would be easy or very easy.
Making a positive health change was seen as more difficult in some groups than in others. Among adults earning below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) thought making a positive health change would be difficult or very difficult. Among adults earning more than 200 percent FPL, more than five in 10 (55 percent) felt this way.
More information about Ohioans’ barriers to changing their health, and other topics, is available online at www.interactforhealth.org/ohio-health-issues-poll.
About the Ohio Health Issues Poll
The 2015 Ohio Health Issues Poll (OHIP) is funded by Interact for Health. OHIP was conducted July 15-28, 2015, by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati. A random sample of 811 adults from throughout Ohio was interviewed by telephone. This included 448 landline telephone and 363 cell phone interviews. In 95 of 100 cases, the statewide estimates will be accurate to ±3.4%. There are other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording or context effects that can introduce error or bias. For more information about the Ohio Health Issues Poll, please visit www.interactforhealth.org/ohio-health-issues-poll.