Americans more worried about Ebola than obesity, cancer

November 18, 2014

The Ebola virus continues to be one of the top healthcare concerns in the minds of Americans, according to a Gallup poll.

The Ebola virus continues to be one of the top healthcare concerns in the minds of Americans, according to a Gallup poll. When asked about the most urgent health problems in the U.S., 17% of people mentioned Ebola.

“At the time of the new survey, only one of the four people who had been diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. was still being treated, and the other two surviving patients had already been declared virus-free,” says Lydia Saad, senior editor at Gallup. “Thus, it is a testament to the gravity of the Ebola virus that it still sparks relatively high public concern several weeks after the peak of the U.S. scare.” The phone survey was conducted November 6-9, 2014.

Concern over obesity was mentioned by 10% of people surveyed. Last year, 13% of respondents cited obesity as an urgent concern. Though obesity slipped, it remains significantly higher than the 1% who cited it as a concern in 1999. Ten percent of respondents mentioned cancer as an urgent concern both this year and last year. Cancer remains one of the top four health concerns for the country, although down from 23% in 1999.

The national concern over rare diseases such as Ebola is nothing new, according to Gallup. In 2005, Americans showed concern over the bird flu, and in 2009 the nation was worried about the H1N1 virus. AIDS, which has been an urgent health issue for more than two decades, has seen a drop in concern due to successful treatments and control of the disease, according to Gallup. During the 1990s, 68% of respondents named AIDS as a top concern in its first year appearing on the survey. Now, only 1% of respondents count it as an urgent health issue.

Affordable and accessible healthcare are the top two health concerns. “Meanwhile, a year after the Affordable Care Act began to offer all Americans healthcare through government healthcare exchanges, with discounts given to some based on financial need, nearly one in five Americans continue to name healthcare costs as the most urgent health problem facing the country, and a similar proportion name healthcare access. These issues have been prominent on the list for over a decade, and are likely to remain so,” Saad says.