Gallup has a national health research partnership with Healthways that keeps track of the overall health of Americans. The most recent Gallup-Healthways study shows that well-being in the United States declined during the Obama administration.
The study does not stress that many of the worst health habits of Americans have nothing to do with who is president, so linking the two in any way could be misleading.
“Well-Being in the United States: The Obama Years” is a long, five-part series, with several overarching conclusions.
The least supportable link between the president and health is that Americans are getting fatter and have poorer diets. Since the behavior that causes those factors has little relationship with the federal government, the cause and effect argument is hard to make. However, Healthways raises the issue:
While Americans’ exercise and smoking habits have improved under the current administration, their eating habits have worsened slightly over the past eight years. The percentage of Americans who said they ate healthy all day yesterday has fluctuated since Gallup and Healthways began to track this metric in 2008, from an initial 66.1%, reaching a high of 67.7% in 2010, to the 64.2% of U.S. adults measured in 2016.
The current 18.0% of U.S. adults who smoke has decreased from 21.0% in 2009, continuing a trend that began long before Obama took office. Additionally, the percentage of Americans who report exercising regularly has edged up in 2016 to 53.8%, and from a longer-term perspective, has increased 2.4 percentage points since 2008.
Though Americans’ exercise habits have improved, this has not contributed to a drop in the obesity rate. In 2015, the obesity rate among U.S. adults climbed to a new high of 28.0%, up 2.5 percentage points since 2008. This concerning trend highlights the need for leaders, both civil and political, to continue pushing towards positive change in their communities to encourage active living and promote access to healthy food.
Whether people exercise or eat poorly has no relationship to a president or his term.