Over the last 50 years, medicine and health technologies have improved exponentially, with more therapeutic options available than ever before. Despite this, studies show that our health is not improving as a result. One analysis of lifestyle-related disease demonstrated that 30 years of medical advancements had no impact on the outcomes and well-being of patients [i]. As with patients 30 years ago, today still only 50% can reach their required health targets. Why is this?

The most obvious answer is that THE DRUG IS ONLY 50% OF THE SOLUTION. The other 50% relies on the person, their education, engagement, and lifestyle choices.

We surveyed an array of different people about their health and lifestyle to figure out what barriers were preventing them from achieving their health targets. The top 10 reasons are recorded and summarised below:

10. Kids

Many parents found that their health deteriorated after having children, due to the stresses involved, sleep deprivation, busy schedules, and lack of time to focus on themselves and their own health needs.

9. Compliance

50% of those surveyed admitted to regularly missing their prescribed treatment(s) or not abiding by the lifestyle “rules” imposed by their healthcare professional.

8. Mental Health

Many respondents expressed issues with acute or long-term mental health problems as a barrier to maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Periods of mental health issues led to periods of poor health management and worsening health outcomes.

7. Winter

Often people feel that their health suffers during the winter months due to reoccurring colds and flus, a lack of sun, lower temperatures and inability to exercise regularly outdoors. Some research has also shown that many people suffer during this time of the year with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is clinically related to a lack of sunlight, affecting mood.

6. Food industry marketing

Food choices made by respondents demonstrated regular consumption of high fat, high sugar, high salt and processed food. Choices were made predominantly as a result of clever and innovative food industry marketing. With brand association or food flavours influencing decisions more than an understanding of the health aspects of the food they were consuming.

5. Motivation

Most people found it extremely difficult to maintain any kind of positive lifestyle change due to feeling unmotivated. Respondents claimed it was often tiresome or a burden to implement a healthy lifestyle change into their already busy schedules. The common phrase of “I know I should be doing that, but…” was all too often the response to questions regarding their health and well-being.

4. Sole reliance on the Western health system

Of the surveyed respondents a resounding 75% relied solely on health advice given by their healthcare professional(s). Given the infrequency that most people visit their doctor and the short duration of time they spend with them, it isn’t surprising that many people only received simple medication or lifestyle advice. They were not equipped with any long-term plan that could be tailored to their individual health needs.

3. Time

One of the most common barriers to preventing people from pursing a better lifestyle is their available time beyond their current commitments. With the long hours we work and the demands of the fast-paced world we live in most people struggle to make time for themselves and their own health. One phrase often heard is “if only there were more hours in the day”.

2. Stress

The majority of respondents admitted to being overworked, tired, frustrated and experiencing some kind of ongoing emotional stress. Stress is a complex and individualised process that effects everyone in their own unique way. For stress to be managed effectively it must first be identified and then treated according to individual needs. If left unchecked, stress can lead to chronic long-term health complications and illness. We all experience a variety of different stressors every day, but it is how aware of them we are and how we cope with them that determines how much they impact our life and our health.

1. Health Literacy

Studies have shown that health improvement occurs when people are informed, educated and engaged. Even in countries where health literacy frameworks are in place such as New Zealand and Australia, 55-60% of the population do not have adequate health literacy to meet the demands of everyday life and work [iv]. The current healthcare system only allows for minor improvements in health literacy given the lack of time and individualisation of care received by each patient. Furthermore, our education system does not adequately equip us to enter the adult world with the knowledge we need to make informed decisions about our health. For patients to make any significant food, lifestyle or health related changes they must first understand the significance of the change and then engage in the ongoing process.

What are your barriers to reaching your health potential?

Our goal is to assist you to break down these barriers to better health. We promote education, holistic prevention, early intervention, complimentary supplementation and lifestyle management to keep you healthy, happy and assist you to achieve your health goals. Our mission is to provide everyone with the knowledge they need to understand and personalise their health journey and to inspire them to unlock their health potential and unleash their inner power. View our website for more information and subscribe to our social media accounts for updates and further health and well-being related articles. 

[i] Casagrande S et al. Diabetes Care. 2013;36:2271-9.

[ii] Roecklein KA, Rohan KJ. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2005 Jan; 2(1): 20–26.

[iii] (a) Dewalt DA, Berkman ND, Sheridan S, et al. Literacy and health outcomes: a systematic review of the literature. J Gen Intern Med 2004 Dec;19(12):1228-39. (b) Berkman ND, et al. Health Literacy Interventions and Outcomes: An Updated Systematic Review. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 199. (Prepared by RTI International University of North Carolina Evidence based Practice Center under contract No. 290-2007-10056-I. AHRQ Publication Number 11- E006. Rockville, MD. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. March 2011.

[iv] (a) Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008. Health Literacy Australia 2006. Canberra. Cat. No.4233.0. Ministry of Health. 2010. (b) Korero Marama: Health Literacy and Maori Results from the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health. New Zealand.

Opinion piece written by Dr Corin Storkey, Founder and Director Seleno Health 

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