Perceived Risk of Critical Illness Diagnosis High Among Middle-Income Americans, New Study Reveals

CARMEL, Ind., June 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent study finds middle-income Americans on average give themselves about a 1-in-5 chance of being diagnosed with a critical illness in the next three years and a 1-in-2 chance of being diagnosed with a critical illness within the next 20 years.

Middle-Income America's Perspectives on Critical Illness and Financial Security study, commissioned by Washington National Institute for Wellness Solutions (IWS), surveyed 1,001 Americans ages 30 to 66 with an annual household income of between $35,000 and $99,999.

The IWS study found that those who feel more vulnerable in the short term—with a perceived diagnosis risk greater than 50% over the next three years—tend to have lower income, fewer resources and poor health. Those who consider themselves highly vulnerable to critical illnesses are more likely to:

  • Be lower income— 52%
  • Be uninsured— 21%
  • Be unemployed— 13%
  • Consider themselves to be in poor/fair health— 22%
  • Have had a meaningful conversation about caregiving options in case of a critical illness— 50%

Health concerns vs. health choices

Although the study reveals that middle-income Americans are aware and concerned by the risk of critical illnesses, for themselves and their families, not enough are regularly engaged in health-promoting activities:

  • 49% engage in physical activity
  • 47% eat healthy foods
  • 43% get eight hours of sleep
  • 37% see a dentist

While more than three-fourths of middle-income Americans have a personal healthcare provider whom they see at least annually, fewer seek regular preventative care. Only one-third received a flu shot in the past six months (during the flu season), less than two-thirds of women 40 and older received a mammogram in the past two years, and only about half of all middle-income Americans older than 50 have had a colonoscopy.

When asked why they are not engaged in healthier behaviors, most cite external factors—such as the lack of time and money or physical limitations—rather than personal reasons, such as a lack of motivation.

"Start by making good health a personal priority," said Barbara Stewart, President of Washington National Insurance Company. "Strive to maintain a healthy diet and stay active. The health choices you make today could have a significant impact on your financial future given the incidence of critical illnesses and the cost of health care."

Methodology

Middle-Income America's Perspectives on Critical Illness and Financial Security, a study from the Washington National Institute for Wellness Solutions, was conducted in January 2013 by Zeldis Research, an independent research firm. The full report can be viewed at WNInstituteforWellness.com.

A cross-generational nationwide sample of 1,001 middle-income Americans ages 30 to 66 with an annual household income of between $35,000 and $99,999 participated in the internet-based survey. Females and males each represented approximately 50% of survey participants.

None of the respondents had ever been diagnosed with any of the following critical illnesses: Alzheimer's disease or dementia, cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and stroke. Respondents were excluded if they had Medicare, Medicaid or Medicare supplement insurance. Significant subsample differences were tested at the 95% confidence level.

About the Washington National Institute for Wellness Solutions

The Institute for Wellness Solutions is Washington National Insurance Company's research and consumer education program. The organization sponsors studies and supports awareness campaigns to help Americans meet the challenges of critical illnesses. Specifically, the institute provides insight and practical advice about wellness and illness prevention, illness care and treatment, and managing the total costs—financial and personal—of critical illnesses. To learn more, visit WNInstituteforWellness.com.

About Washington National Insurance Company

Washington National Insurance Company, a subsidiary of CNO Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: CNO), has helped Americans since 1911 to protect themselves and their families from the financial hardship that often comes with critical illnesses, accidents and loss of life. The company remains dedicated to helping middle-income Americans who work hard and want to protect themselves and their loved ones. To learn more, visit WashingtonNational.com.