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Personal Health Is Social

Posted by | 2:23pm on Monday, October 24, 2011

When respondents were asked to rank sources of health information for credibility, they rated patients substantially higher than traditional spokespeople such as celebrities or CEOs 

Memorial To World War Medical PersonnelGaining insight into patient attitudes about health can be both interesting and beneficial for marketers and healthcare professionals. Recently, the 2011 Edelman Health Barometer report did just that by surveying 15,165 people ages 18 – 65+ in 12 different countries.

A large majority of people surveyed (80%) would define personal health as more than just the absence of disease. Their definition includes but is not limited to such factors as a balanced and nutritious diet, mental and emotional health, an active and fit lifestyle, and the absence of drugs and alcohol. Not surprisingly, it was found that factors that are most within an individual’s control (such as lifestyle and nutrition) were perceived as having the greatest impact on their health, and outside of themselves, respondents’ family and friends played the biggest role in shaping their health.

This perception that their own peers had a large influence on their health was consistent with an increasing tendency to trust health information received from fellow patients. When respondents were asked to rank sources of health information for credibility, they rated patients substantially higher than traditional spokespeople such as celebrities or CEOs. Sixty-five percent of respondents rated “someone living with a disease/condition” as a credible source for health information, behind doctors (88%), pharmacists (81%), nurses (77%), nutritionists (75%), and academics/experts (72%). This isn’t quite as dramatic as the results in Rodale’s 2011 DTC Study which found 83% of consumers who use social media for health information said they were interested in hearing from others with the same condition versus 75% who said doctors/healthcare providers.

Who Do You Trust?
The chart below shows the detailed response to the question. “Below is a list of people. In general if you heard health-related information from that person, how credible do you think that information would be?”

Edelman Health Barometer 2011

The flip side of receiving information from peers is providing it. People like helping other people, and this motivates them when it comes to health advocacy: the opportunity to help others was found to be a bigger incentive than personal gain. “Realizing the long-term health of another person would improve” and “Making a personal commitment to help others” were the top two triggers for respondents to motivate another person to take better care of his or her health.

Healthy Companies
What about the role of business in this pattern of social engagement around health? Respondents had high expectations for companies to be health conscious. Patients expect companies to integrate health into their business strategies, practices, and policies and to take specific actions toward this end, such as communicating the health risks of products or services, enabling employees to have the time to take care of their health, changing or eliminating products or services that are not considered healthy, and leading and convening discussions about government health priorities.

If companies start to address these expectations and are seen to have effectively engaged in health, they will be seen as increasingly trustworthy.

Ellen Hoenig also blogged on this topic, discussing the concept of the “healthprint” of an individual or business; see her perspective. What do you think about this survey?

(Image courtesy of Takoma Bibelot on Flickr).

About Beth Peluse

With experience in public relations, pharmaceuticals, and marketing, Beth is a key member of Siren's account management team. She provides the day-to-day management for clients' interactive projects and assists in strategy development.

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