If you thought Americans’ eating habits couldn’t possibly get any worse, think again. In a recent Gallup poll, Americans reported a drop in healthy eating this year over last year, with fruit and vegetable consumption down across all demographics.
When asked if they “ate healthy all day yesterday,” 66.2% of respondents answered “yes,” compared to 68.2% last year. Likewise, 61.3% of women and a meager 50.1% of men reported eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables at least four times a week in 2011, compared to 63.5% and 51.7% in 2010, respectively.
Of course, the poll does not acknowledge that “healthy” is a highly subjective term. Are potatoes “healthy”? What about granola? Fruit juice? Pasta? The list goes on and on.
Even worse, Americans’ unhealthy habits extended beyond diet, with increases in smoking and decreases in exercise reported over last year’s numbers.
So what’s causing the bad trend? The easiest – and perhaps erroneous – assumption would be to link unhealthy habits with the faltering economy: People are working more to make up for their debt, and they’re earning less money, eating cheaper food and smoking to kill stress – leaving them less time to exercise.
Gallup throws the blame on high gas prices, which have led to more expensive food and less consumer money to pay for it. But maybe it’s not that easy. Have Americans become complacent? Are we failing to see the connection between poor health and disease? Are we funding the healthcare, insurance and drug companies with our “the doctor will fix it” attitude?
What about false advertising, greenwashing and pseudo-healthy food products? How will all of this factor into Americans’ lifestyle and well-being?
These numbers may only represent a blip on the radar. However, Americans’ health – as well as its correlation with the state of the economy – will be an important trend to watch in the months and years ahead.