As Warren Zevon once said: Life'll kill ya. And that's something most Americans agree with.

Three nonprofits — NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health — teamed up to find out what U.S. adults thought were the causes of poor health. Turns out we think lots of factors are undermining our health on a daily basis — at least according to the results mined from responses from almost 2,500 people.

Here's the basic breakdown of what breaks down our health. These numbers are for the most frequently cited causes deemed "extremely important to health problems" and they exceed 100 percent (by plenty) because people could site more than one cause:

When asked about incidents from one's childhood that had an extremely important effect on one's health later in life, respondents chose:

  • Childhood abuse and/or neglect: 54 percent

  • Living in a polluted area: 44 percent

  • Poor diet: 44 percent

  • Not getting vaccinated: 43 percent

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including and

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.

Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.