The World Health Organization defines good health as a state of the physical, mental, and social well-being of people. It is not restricted to the absence of disease or infirmity. The efficiency of our human bodies, mental state, and the quality of our interaction with others define our wellness. The selection of wellness facts and statistics across these areas below highlights the importance of a rounded approach to well-being and wellness.
#1 - Globally, 1 in 4 adults do not meet the global recommended levels of physical activity1
As we age, regular exercise can help prevent various ailments, including cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, obesity, and cancer. Physical activity done right can strengthen our muscles, help us lose weight, prevent high cholesterol buildup, and improve our mood and overall well-being.
However, statistics show that just one in four adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity needed to enjoy those benefits. In 2016, 28% of people got less than 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of rigorous physical activity. And data shows that since 2001, there has been no improvement in global levels of physical activity.
#2 - Insufficient physical activity increased by 5% in high-income countries between 2001 and 20161
#3 - More than 80% of the world's adolescent population is insufficiently physically active1
Health professionals recommend physical exercise for people of all ages, including children. For younger people, it does not have to be as structured as the physical activity adults undertake and can come in the form of play. Walking, sports, cycling, and swimming are examples of physical activities both kids and adults can enjoy. Physical activities aid growth, keep the heart healthy, and enhance cognitive functions in young children.
Children between 3-4 years of age should spend at least 180 minutes being physically active. At the same time, adolescents aged between 5-17 years should involve themselves in 60 minutes of exercise each day. Adults should strive to put in at least 150 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly.
#4 - For pregnant and postpartum women, physical activity results in a 30% reduction in risk of gestational diabetes1
#5 - WHO in 2020 reported that up to 5 million deaths a year could be averted if the global population was more active1
#6 - Insufficiently active people have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to sufficiently active people1
Physical exercise can contribute to the prevention of non-communicable diseases and lower blood pressure. An acute lack of physical activity can result in poor health. Young people may experience unhealthy weight gain, poor fitness levels, sleep problems, and poor social behavior.
#7 - Eating at least 400g or five portions of vegetables per day reduces the risk of NCDs2
The human body needs good food to remain strong and healthy. A balanced and healthy meal provides the much-needed nutrition that protects the body from malnutrition. Eating healthy also strengthens our immune system against diseases such as stroke, cancer, and heart disease. A balanced diet full of vegetables and fiber can aid a healthy digestive system.
Healthy eating should begin from infancy and continue throughout life. Breastfeeding improves cognitive function and sets the child on a healthy path early in life. Current eating trends show that urbanization and the increased popularity of processed foods have resulted in the consumption by the average person of more energy foods, fats, sodium, and sugars.
#8 - An unhealthy diet is one of the leading global risks to human health2
#9 - About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet3
An unhealthy diet is one of the leading health risks worldwide. Certain foods, when taken in excess, can contribute to wellness problems. Sugar, salt, and fats happen to be the most common foods eaten in excess. The WHO has recommended reducing the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake in both children and adults.
Also, fats consumed should be less than 30% of our total energy intake as the body does not need high cholesterol levels but rather needs more energy. Therefore, we should strive to monitor our consumption of meat, cheese, palm oil, cream, pizza, and so on. The health facts show that reducing fast food consumption can be an excellent way to avoid excessive salt, sugar, and fat consumption. While also helping with weight loss and prolonging life expectancy.
#10 - Reducing salt intake to the recommended level of less than 5g per day could prevent 1.7 million deaths a year2
Today’s typical meals exceed the recommended intake levels for solid and saturated fats, salt, and added sugars. This unhealthy practice has contributed to fatal health complications. Keeping salt intake under 5g daily can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and hypertension in adults.
Drinking more water and choosing a hot drink over ice-cold beverages can also be beneficial to our health. Hot drinks can help bring down body temperature through added heat that causes increased perspiration. The sweat evaporates, and your body cools down.
#11 - Research shows that reducing the sodium Americans eat by 1,200mg per day could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs3
#12 - According to the British Health and Safety Executive report, in 2020, about 828,000 workers suffered from work-related stress4
The adult human body becomes increasingly prone to illnesses with age. But with modern life’s work and lifestyle stresses, people are starting to experience issues such as heart disease much earlier than their age groups are medically advised.
#13 - Greece has the highest percentage of stressed-out people globally, with 59% of its population reporting high-stress levels5
Stress can arise from a lot of situations, but it is most common in the workplace. People who are going through severe stress are likely to experience depression and anxiety as well. About 55% of Americans are stressed all day long, but Greece is still topping the list for the most stressed-out population. The Philippines follow it at 58% and Tanzania at 57%.
Workers have attributed stress at work to factors such as heavy workloads and poor leadership. Whatever the reason, data shows that work-related stress has only increased in recent times. Statistics also show that stress is more prevalent in the public service sector. The covid-19 pandemic certainly hasn't made the situation any easier.
#14 - Workload was the dominant cause of work-related stress in Britain from 2009 to 20124
#15 - In 2019/2020, stress contributed to 51% of Britain’s work-related ill health cases4
Workplace stress can result in mental and physical ill health for workers. For many people, stress is the reason they can't get enough sleep. Lack of sleep and unhealthy stress coping mechanisms like smoking, stress eating, and drugs can be fatal.
Wellness goes beyond just a healthy body to include a healthy capacity for interpersonal relationships. Stressed people may have another challenge here, as a high proportion of US workers stated that stress from their workplace affects their relationships.
#16 - The American Psychology Association 2020 survey revealed that young people aged 13 to 23 are experiencing elevated stress levels6
#17 - The COVID-19 pandemic is a significant source of stress for 78% of Americans6
#18 - In the US, about 64% of adults say money is a significant source of stress6
There is a financial problem that arises from stress and its effect on productivity. Workers in Britain missed 17.9 million days of work between 2019 to 2020 due to stress and anxiety. In the US, 68% of those under severe stress reported that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted their jobs. This was particularly prevalent in sectors paying per hour, where workers lost part of their projected income.
It is important to take proactive steps to deal with stressors. Changing a job or living environment may significantly improve well-being when we cannot remove the stressor. If that is not an option, consider talking to a doctor, exercising regularly, or taking a relaxing break or personal retreat. You can also read up on some of our ideas for self-care, which may help alleviate stress levels.
#19 - 62% of adults worldwide feel they do not sleep well7
Sleep is as essential to the human body as air, food, and water. One-third of the world's population may have undiagnosed sleep disorders. The environment, mental condition, and physical and social factors affect how well we sleep. Inadequate sleep increases the chances of driving and workplace accidents.
Losing one to two hours of sleep frequently can affect how we function. Sleep deprivation can become a public safety issue due to involuntary micro-sleeping. Microsleep occurs when a person feels they are awake normally, but it causes them to lose time without being aware. The US records about 100,000 car accidents and 1,550 deaths due to drowsy driving.
#20 - In the US, about 50-70 million adults have sleep disorders8
#21 - Insomnia is the most reported sleep disorder; in recent studies, it affects 37% of participants7
#22 - The average sleep duration of adults is 6.8 hours on weeknights and 7.8 hours on weekend nights7
#23 - A study done in the UK showed that a decrease in sleep quality and an increase in sleep medication use is associated with poor health and well-being9
Without good sleep, the human brain doesn't function at its best. Sleep affects our mental and physical well-being just as those same factors influence it. Research suggests that long-term sleep disorders may be closely associated with many health challenges. With a routine of fewer than 6 hours of sleep, a person has a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, poor brain function, obesity, and cancer.
Getting better sleep can significantly improve productivity and public health and prevent diseases. Quality sleep boosts the immune system and helps control body weight as you burn more calories sleeping than watching TV. Sleep also improves mood and strengthens sexual and reproductive health.
Children aged 6-12 should get 9-12 hours of sleep every day, and teenagers, 8-10 hours. Older adults should sleep for a minimum of 7 hours and a maximum of 9 hours.
#24 - According to WHO, mental disorders make up 10% of the global disease burden and 30% of the global non-fatal disease burden10
#25 - In the same report, the WHO states that nearly 50% of mental disorders begin before the age of 1410
The WHO in 2019 reported that depression affects 264 million people worldwide. It is one of the leading causes of disability. Mental disorders do not affect only adults. According to the World Health Organization's studies, about 1 in 5 children and adolescents worldwide have a mental illness.
Related: Our curated selection of the best mental health quotes talks about the personal and lived experience of mental health issues and efforts to remediate associated stigmas.
#26 - Mental Health in America (MHA) in 2017-2018 records 19% of people in the U.S. living with a mental health condition nationwide. This is a 1.5 million increase to last year's report10
#27 - More also, 9.7% of youths, as against last year's report of 9.2%, are recorded living with severe major depression11
The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has had a noticeable effect on the mental well-being of young people. In 2020, youths in the US aged 11-17 recorded moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. 70% of people screened in the U.S. for mental disorders attributed their challenge to loneliness and isolation.
#28 - 800,000 people die from suicide every year, according to WHO10
Suicide is one of the most devasting effects of mental disorders. WHO reports that one person commits suicide every 40 seconds. For people between the ages of 15-29, suicide is the leading cause of death10
People who are experiencing abuse, loss, conflict, isolation, or discrimination are very vulnerable. The MHA recorded 77,470 youths and 27,980 LGBTQ+ youth in the US experiencing frequent suicidal ideation11.
Individuals with mental disorders can help themselves by seeking professional help. Sadly, stigma and inadequate treatment resources prevent a lot of people from getting much-needed help.
Related: for a deeper dive, we have a dedicated article containing 33 mental health facts to explore further and learn about the impacts of mental health on our wellness.
Several key lifestyle factors are considered dimensions of overall health and wellness. They include your state of mind, stress, exercise, nutrition, and sleep.
By making simple and healthy choices daily to ensure personal care, you will be well on your way towards reducing stress, having positive social interactions, achieving optimal wellness, and living longer.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.