WASHINGtON - According to the latest Gallup poll results on American eating habits, the skyrocketing unemployment rate in the black community (16.2 percent) is compelling Black Americans to sacrifice healthy eating, for cheap, caloric foods.
Nearly 4.5 million Americans are eating less-healthy foods due to a diminished spending power, and desire to conserve money.
For blacks, who suffer from the greatest economic strains, the numbers could be catastrophic.
Americans' Healthy Behaviors Index score was 63.8 in May, down from 65.2 in the same month last year. Adults' health habits have been worse in each of the past three months compared with the same months in 2010.
Gallup and Healthways ask at least 1,000 Americans each day about their health behaviors. Specifically, respondents are asked to report on whether they smoke, on how many days in the last week they exercised for at least 30 minutes, if they ate healthy all day "yesterday," and on how many days they consumed five or more servings of fruits and vegetables in the last seven days.
Americans' eating habits are the culprit in the lower Healthy Behaviors Index score. Fewer Americans reported eating healthily in May this year than did so last year, 66.2 vs. 68.2. Similarly, Americans are not eating as many fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis as they did last year. These data reveal that about 4.5 million fewer American adults ate healthy in May this year than did in the same month one year ago.
Frequent Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Down Across Demographic Groups
Fewer Americans across major demographic groups are eating fruits and vegetables frequently. However, produce consumption is down the most among Hispanics, young adults, seniors, and women this year compared with 2010.
In particular, Hispanics and young people were by far the least likely to eat produce frequently in 2011, with less than half of each group getting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables at least four days per week.
The month of May typically kicks off the four strongest months of the year in overall healthy behaviors for American adults, as seasonal opportunities present themselves and more Americans seek healthier choices. However, Americans' health habits did not increase in May and are worse compared with 2010. Hispanics and young adults are among the most in need of improving their eating habits compared with other deographics. These two groups are not only among the least likely to eat fruits and vegetables frequently, but also their scores have demonstrated the greatest one-year decline in this area.
It is possible that the 2011 decline in the Healthy Behavior Index score is partly a result of sharply increasing gas prices, which may drive some Americans to less expensive, less healthy options. Gas prices were high in the summer of 2008 as well, but those months pre-dated the financial crisis, so the potential effect may have been mitigated.