5 Surprising Consumer Behaviors That Correlate With Health

Published on March 23, 2016

At Carrot Health, we combine healthcare data with consumer data to uncover predictive insights about individuals and groups. When we dig into healthcare data, we always find interesting correlations and patterns — consumer behaviors that turn out to be related to health status. You probably already know that smoking (a consumer behavior) is associated with lung cancer (a health condition). So if you observe that someone is a smoker, you can predict that that person is more likely to develop lung cancer. But did you know that there are many other, less obvious, signals in the data? Here are 5 interesting consumer behaviors that turn out to correlate with health status:

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1. Travel – People who travel are generally healthier. Does this mean that the path to health is to book a plane flight? Your airline would love you to think so. More likely, however, is that people who are not healthy tend to stay closer to home, where they have established and well-known support structures. Even if a sick individual desires adventure and travel, they are unlikely to act on it.

 

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2. Boat & ATV Ownership – People who own boats and ATVs are more likely to get certain diseases. Well, sort of, anyway. There IS a correlation between owning a boat or ATV and certain disease states. Is your boat going to make you sick? Probably not. Clearly, though, lifestyle choices are grouped together. This is one indicator of a set of decisions that can affect which diseases are present.

 

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3. Net Worth – While it is a sad truth that those with the least resources are less healthy, we’ve found a correlation that is even more troublesome: among hospital patients, those with the least resources have higher total healthcare charges. There are several hypotheses for this, and we haven’t analyzed them all. But the numbers are both statistically significant and repeatable.

 

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4. Hobbies – One of the behavioral signs of serious illness is absence of leisure time activities. This shows up both in patient behavior, as well as, to a lesser degree, in the caregiving household. Managing serious illness is a huge task that leaves little time for recreational activities. Even if time is still available, the fatigue and inward focus associated with serious illness doesn’t leave much bandwidth for hobbies, even if hobbies were important before becoming ill. A corollary is that households with serious illness tend to have poor survey response rates. (Wait, you say… perhaps they actually do have hobbies, they just aren’t as likely to divulge them. We adjusted for that, and the signal remains.) Hobbies are among the first things to go in the event of a serious illness.

 

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5. Divorce – In general, divorce is bad for your health. A statistically significant difference can be seen in a wide variety of disease states. The health issues are more pronounced in men, but it touches everyone in the family. Kids of divorced parents experience statistically worse heath throughout their lives, and have shorter life expectancy as well. The good news? Psychological studies indicate that the key factor is happiness in the relationship. If those affected by divorce are able to find a happy and stable relationship, their risk factors decrease substantially.

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