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What does “healthy” mean in 2023?

Medical Pharmaceutical Translations • Mar 13, 2023 12:00:00 AM

Do you consider yourself healthy?

However you answered, what do you think “healthy” means?

This is what nutrition and exercise app Noom wanted to know. In partnership with market researchers at OnePoll, they recently released the findings of a survey that was given to 8,000 people in 8 countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, New Zealand, and Spain.

The goal was to gain insights into to several issues, notably:

- how healthy respondents consider themselves to be

- what is keeping respondents from being healthier

- how respondents define “health”

- which countries consider themselves the healthiest

The results were surprising in many ways. For one thing, an impressive majority of overall respondents - 78% - said that they were healthy. (In case you were wondering, the “winning” country was Spain, with 91% of respondents saying they considered themselves healthy. The “loser” was Germany, with less than 67% considering themselves healthy.)

But what may be the most important finding is how survey participants defined “healthy”. 31% of them equate being healthy with being physically fit, and another 31% considered exercising regularly to be a sign of health. But an additional 30% of respondents cited being emotionally happy, and others listed regularly getting enough sleep.

Findings for many countries showed that respondents considered being healthy as being well in both body AND mind. For example, 32% of US respondents said being healthy means doing exercise on a regular basis, but 24% said that in addition to physical activity, “healthy” also means being happy.

This connection was even more evident to respondents from South Korea, of whom 48% said being healthy included being stress-free.

57% of respondents from all countries want more help from their government when it comes to being healthy. While affordable medications and tighter restrictions on preservatives in food were common requests, the most frequently desired improvement was better access to mental health care, something 34% of respondents put first.

Analysts from Noom and other sources see these responses as evidence of an interesting shift. Health has gone from being solely about a person’s physical state to being about their overall well-being - in other words, for many people, in 2023, “health” seems to be a holistic concept.

You could argue that while the study did involve a large number of participants and countries/cultures, not every group is represented. Notably missing, for instance, are participants from countries that are experiencing war, high rates of disease, or the aftermath of a major natural disaster. It’s also unlikely that the poll included people from underprivileged populations.

But while we can’t say that the survey is a good representation of EVERY country and culture, it still provides fascinating insights into many of them. For healthcare providers, organizations, and marketers whose target audience falls within the groups who were surveyed, it’s an important resource to keep in mind when talking about health with patients and consumers.

This holistic approach may seem like a relatively new (or “New Age”) way of thinking about health that will take time to be widely accepted as the norm, but the concept of holistic healthcare is already entering the mainstream. For instance, just last week, Forbes published an article that advised business leaders to take “a holistic approach to employee health and well-being”.

As 2023 continues, it will be interesting to see if - and how - healthcare, patient education, and health and pharma marketing evolve to reflect this change, as well.

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