the series

Impacts to Health

CE study shows how the
“mess of life” impacts health

Steve was in his 50s when he started feeling something wasn’t right. He felt anxious, wasn’t sleeping and couldn’t concentrate. After much internal debate, he went to see his doctor.

“I finally worked up the nerve to talk to my general practitioner about how terrible I was feeling — the despair I felt, the lack of sleep, the intolerable anxiety, the brain fog,” says Steve. “He slapped me on the back and told me to be grateful and that I was in ‘great health’ for a 54-year-old man. I never brought up how I was feeling again.”

He slapped me on the back and told me to be grateful and that I was in ‘great health’ for a 54-year-old man. I never brought up how I was feeling again.

New research from Campbell Ewald shows Steve’s experience is not unique. Most Americans understand how the stresses of life — like money problems or relationship issues — can impact their health but are reluctant to bring them up in the examination room for fear their doctor won’t take them seriously.

Health care communications expert Alexandra Drane believes that health care providers have to understand more about their patients' lives in order to offer them the best treatment. “We need to expand the definition of health to include life because when life goes wrong, health goes wrong,” she says.


Our research – in partnership with Nonfiction Research – identified six “stress” areas people said had an impact on their health and why patients are reluctant to discuss them with their physician. Study data was gathered using a quantitative national survey, one-on-one interviews with Americans across various ages and ethnic identities, and a comprehensive online listening campaign that matched results with the experiences of real people.

Real Talk About Real Problems

Our survey and interviews quickly identified that most Americans — 59% — admitted they were going through something stressful that kept them from living a healthy life. As one survey respondent said, “Money issues, family issues, mental health issues and stresses of life all prevent me from feeling motivated to live healthy.”



of Americans admitted that something stressful was keeping them from living a healthy life.

In fact, money/debt concerns was the top “mess of life” problem, according to 42% of those surveyed. The other primary issues were:



debt concerns



emotional states



relationship issues



Job Stress



death of a family member



issues in their sex life

The issue was even more acute for people of color and low-income patients. For example, compared with the general population, Hispanic patients were much less comfortable talking to doctors about their mental/emotional stress, while Black patients were reluctant to discuss relationship issues.

The Way Forward

The one clear insight from our research is this: Patients need to feel heard by their health care providers so they’ll bring important underlying causes of health problems into the examination room.

In addition, CE identified creative takeaways health care providers can use to build a relationship of trust so patients feel heard and understood, which can have a positive impact on their overall health.

For more insight about how these "mess of life" issues impact the ways consumers choose their health care services — and five key ways your marketing can upend this status quo — contact Scott Echols at