Worried?… You might just be healthier


You might have heard of the “worried well” phenomenon. In a nutshell it means that being a bit worried about your health might just motivate you to take the right steps to make healthy changes to your lifestyle.

The “worried well” are also more likely to volunteer for clinical research studies (well-known for decades as the “healthy volunteer effect”). This means that participants who volunteer for studies are more likely to engage in many healthy activities, above and beyond the specific factors being tested in the study.

As a result, clinical studies often don’t represent the population as a whole… therefore often skewing the results. Although, of course, it’s not the intention of the worried well to disrupt scientific data.

Health ideals motivate food shopping

The Nielsen Company and the National Marketing Institute recently performed a study looking at how shoppers select the food and beverages that end up in their kitchen cupboards.

The results showed that consumers fall into one of five distinct categories. Consumers tend not to overlap but remain consistent in their shopping behaviour.

So, what kind of a shopper are you?

The researchers called the first category of shoppers “well beings” — 19 per cent of shoppers based on the number of participants involved in the study. These shoppers are highly proactive and continually search for the next best thing to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The next group was called “food actives” (18 per cent). Food actives represent the mainstream healthy group with a more traditional and balanced perspective. These are the people who apply “common sense” when it comes to making health choices — old-fashioned advice about moderation and a balanced diet and lifestyle.

Now, if you ask me, then the “worried well” falls into these two groups.

Then there’s the third group — the aficionados of “magic bullets” (23 per cent) who prefer to manage their health with mainstream medicine. They run to the latest drug or medical procedure. They don’t want to commit to a healthy lifestyle. Instead, they misplace their faith in the ministrations of modern medical technology above all else.

I bet Big Pharma loves the “magic bullets”!

“Fence sitters” (20 per cent) made up the fourth group in the Nielsen study. They aspire to be healthy, but admit to having difficulty juggling family, work and the stresses of daily life. Marketers exploit this group (including working mums) by packaging convenient, “healthy” foods that are anything but healthy.

Finally, there is the “eat, drink, and be merry” group (20 per cent). They remain indifferent toward healthy eating or initiating healthy lifestyle choices and activities. Now you may think that this is the group that is the most unhealthy, but one study found people with extreme longevity (in their 90s and 100s) actually drank more, smoked more, got less exercise, and had less healthy diets compared to average… but that just might be because this group is most likely to ignore skewed and biased government dietary guidelines.

So, while a little bit of worry and common sense could add years to your life, when it comes to living a healthy life it looks like balance is key: following a diet of fresh, organic foods, moderate alcohol consumption, regular physical activity, spending some time outdoors and getting enough sunshine to maintain optimum vitamin D levels… and wherever possible, avoid hospitals, drugs and medical procedures.

Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


“Are healthy thinkers also healthy shoppers,” Nielsen (nielsen.com) 4/6/2010

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