Fewer Americans are obeying speed limits, exercising vigorously or paying close attention to the fiber and sodium in their diets. And adding to the list of unhealthy behavior, they're eating less broccoli.
Almost two-thirds feel stressed out at least once a week, and three in 10 get by on six hours of sleep a night or less. All told, the average American practices only two-thirds of the behaviors that signal a healthy lifestyle, an annual ranking produced by the health magazine Prevention shows.
Sen. Nancy L. Kassebaum, R-Kan., chairwoman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, joined the magazine's editors at a news conference Monday to release the 12th annual Prevention Index.
Kassebaum said the survey was important in focusing attention on areas of human health in need of vast improvement. But she said government should not always try to impose regulations to force behavioral changes.
"There are those areas where, through peer pressure and emotional impact, we tend to respond," Kassebaum said. "I think there is a limited role for government."
A survey last November of 1,262 adults on 21 healthy practices produced an overall score of 65.6 on a scale of 1 to 100, down slightly from last year's 66.8 and the lowest since 1989. But it is still significantly higher than the first Prevention Index of 61.5 in 1984.
Tom Dybdahl, director of the index, said Americans' behavior changed most dramatically when they could focus on a single, relatively easy act, such as wearing auto safety belts or installing a smoke detector.
It is more of a challenge, he said, to persuade busy people to exercise regularly and eat more broccoli.
"Viewed over the past decade, living healthfully is neither a rapidly growing trend nor a disappearing phenomenon," Dybdahl said. "Rather, it is a complex and ongoing struggle, with progress in one area often accompanied by decline in another. …