Were you one of the 719 visitors to Next Avenue who completed our Morgan-Levy Health Cube? If so, you’ll be interested in our analysis of the results. The Cube and the 20 years of research behind it were described in an article a few weeks ago on Next Avenue. The article included an invitation to visit MLHealthCube.com; the invitation is still open, so you can take the quiz (the access code is NextAvenue).
In completing our e-health program, visitors shared some of their demographics and behaviors but, most importantly, answered a series of questions assessing their health-related motivations on seven key dimensions. These responses were compared to those of the U.S. population age 40 and older. The seven dimensions include feelings about doctors and concern about the cost of healthcare.
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Since many of us want to live healthy lives, we decided to use three critical behaviors — not smoking, maintaining a normal weight and exercising regularly — as the framework for our analysis. Researchers have determined that these behaviors are the equivalent of a magic pill in terms of increasing the probability of a long and healthy life. We divided participants based on how many of these good health behaviors they fulfill — three, two, one or none.
The total sample breaks down as follows: 13 percent achieve all three healthy behaviors; 38 percent do two; 48 percent only one and the fourth group — one percent of the sample — achieves none of the three critical health behaviors.
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We then compared these four groups to their scores on our seven critical dimensions. We were interested in finding out the why behind their behaviors. If participants know their motivational roadblocks to better health and why they are not committing to these three fundamental health behaviors, they might decide to change.
Some Major Motivational Differences
The most significant differences between the groups are on the healthy lifestyle and self-determination dimensions. Scores on these dimensions diminish dramatically with each group practicing fewer of the three health behaviors.
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Regardless of scores on self-determination, each group reflects scores on trust in doctors that are exceedingly low relative to the U.S. age 40 and older population. While all groups had very high scores on able to understand health information relative to the U.S. population age 40 and older, the group practicing none of the good behaviors had a lower score than the other groups.
Having taken responsibility for their own healthcare and convinced they can understand health information, the respondents’ lack of trust in doctors is an understandable outcome.
Three Healthy Behaviors
Those practicing all three critical behaviors are committed to a healthful lifestyle and believe themselves to be responsible for their own health. The results are evident in the fact that all of those in this group have normal weight, are nonsmokers and exercise aerobically four times a week or more.
But what motivations drive their commitment to the basic health behaviors? With the highest healthy lifestyle and self-determination scores, this group indicates their commitment to the effort required to keep themselves healthy, while also believing that their health is in their hands.
Two Healthy Behaviors
This group, which performs two of the three critical health behaviors, exhibits a large drop in their score on the healthy lifestyle dimension as compared to the group practicing all three healthy behaviors. This group also has a substantially lower score on our self-determination dimension as compared to the first group. These scores tell us this group is less willing to assume responsibility and take action to preserve its health as compared to the first group.
The fact that, among those in this group, 30 percent are obese or overweight and only 32 percent exercise four or more times a week at an aerobic level correlates with their lowered commitment on the healthy lifestyle and self-determination dimensions.
One Behavior Only
Those in group three exhibit only one of the three health behaviors, typically not smoking. In this group, the percentage of high scorers relative to the U.S. age 40 and older population on the healthy lifestyle dimension plummets to single digits and their self-determination score is low. It’s not surprising that 96 percent of those in this group are obese or overweight and fewer than one percent exercise at the stated level.
No Good Behaviors
Those in this group smoke, do not exercise four times a week or more at an aerobic level and all of them are either obese or overweight. This group has the lowest scores on healthy lifestyle and self-determination. While they believe they understand health information, they have the lowest score of all the groups on this dimension. They are clearly not motivated to live healthy lives.
An Elite Group Demographically
In terms of demographics, those who completed the Morgan-Levy Health Cube are predominately female, primarily between age 50 and 70 and highly educated. Fifty-one percent of those who took our survey through Next Avenue have a four-year college degree or more as compared to 29 percent of boomers.
Work to be Done on Health Goals
While roughly 19 percent of the U.S. population age 45 to 64 smokes, only 4 percent of the Next Avenue respondents do. This is a remarkable achievement and one that will contribute to their health. Respondents are average, however, on the other two key areas.
Achieving all three healthy behaviors is directly linked to high scores on both healthy lifestyle and self-determination. Increasing one’s commitment on these two motivational dimensions will clearly lead to the possibility of better health. If you took the Morgan-Levy Health Cube, we hope the scores you received on our seven dimensions serve as a springboard for action.