AARP Research

Healthy Lifestyle Beliefs vs. Behaviors

To understand attitudes and behaviors related to living a healthy lifestyle, Life Reimagined commissioned a survey of adults at least 40 years old with support from Optum. The survey explored the importance consumers place on particular healthy behaviors as well as the frequency with which they engage in these behaviors.  The survey also addressed topics of discussion with doctors as well as perceptions of various health care professionals.

Key findings include the following:

  • Knowledge is not enough:  Gaps exist between attitudes and behaviors.

    • While nearly all consumers believe maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very/extremely important to them, less than half rate their health as very good/excellent.  Also, gaps exist between perceived importance of healthy behaviors and regularity of engagement in them.
  • Keep it Simple:  Break down big goals into small steps.

    • The gap between importance and action appears smaller for less time consuming behaviors (for example, the gap between importance and action is 6 percentage points for taking vitamins/supplements compared with 38 percentage points for eating healthy foods).
  • Be Social:  Build opportunities to connect with friends and family.

    • Consumers with close friends are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, such as getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy foods, maintaining peace of mind and minimizing stress, engaging in brain health activities, and taking on new challenges or hobbies.
  • Speak Up:  Bring health professionals into the conversation.

    • The most popular resource for information about health and wellness is friends and family.  In addition, less than half of consumers have discussed select healthy behaviors with their doctor.

This online survey was fielded from August 18-27, 2016 by OpinionsUSA. The sample of 1,006 consisted of adults ages 40 and older and was weighted by age, gender, and income.  For more information contact Colette Thayer at CThayer@aarp.org.

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