While a majority of Americans list cancer as the nation’s most serious health issue, diabetes, obesity, heroin abuse, and bad drinking water all grab about the same amount of attention, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
Kaiser’s April Tracking Poll asked participants to rank health concerns in four categories: Extremely serious, very serious, somewhat serious, and less serious. The answers paint a picture of a nation anxious about a wide array of afflictions, but not so worried about alcohol abuse or lack of access to affordable healthy food. The lack of access to health care also ranks low on the list of priorities.
Your interpretation of the results may depend upon your definition of “extremely serious” and “very serious.”
For instance, if you like to lump those together into one “that’s pretty serious” grouping, then Americans are far more concerned about cancer and diabetes than anything else on the list.
“Lack of access to mental health care” outscored many other afflictions with a combined 74 percent response and far outweighed health care access, at a combined 62 percent.
Americans have clearly gotten the memo that obesity is not a good national trait. Just under three-quarters rank it as extremely or very serious.
Compare those to the following extremely and very serious response rates:
Heart disease: 73 percent
Heroin abuse: 71 percent
Contaminated drinking water: 70 percent
Abuse of prescription drugs: 66 percent
Lack of access to health care: 62 percent
Environmental contamination: 58 percent
Alcohol abuse: 57 percent
Lack of access to affordable healthy food: 54 percent
If you break them out just by “extremely serious,” cancer is the clear “winner” at 43 percent, with heroin abuse, bad water, mental health, and obesity all polling around 33 percent to 35 percent.
The study also hones in on drug addictions and abuse, and found that respondents have a bigger problem with heroin abuse than abuse of prescription painkillers. Alcohol abuse trailed at 19 percent.
Not surprisingly, the poll showed that folks who’ve actually been addicted to a prescription painkiller felt the problem was more serious than those who hadn’t struggled with addiction — but not by much (61 percent to 56 percent calling it extremely serious).
And the public blamed drug users themselves, federal and state government, and doctors for the growing opioid crisis. What about the law enforcement branch of the government? Most thought they were doing their jobs, but weren’t being supported by the others.