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A cold, insomnia, muscle pain, weight problems and migraines complete top 5 most common complaints across 22 countries

More China and Hong Kong consumers experience cough or cold; Japanese experience least health issues

Singapore, November 26, 2015 – Colds and coughs are the most common health conditions experienced by consumers all over the world in the past 12 months, but the number of sufferers in China and Hong Kong, at 57 percent and 55 percent are even higher than the global average which stands at 51 percent. These findings were revealed from a recent GfK online survey which asked over 27,000 people in 22 countries which health conditions from a given list1 they have experienced in the past 12 months.

The five countries in Asia Pacific included in this survey are Australia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Over a quarter (28 percent) of respondents in this region suffer from insomnia or have problems sleeping— the greatest prevalence being seen among Hong Kong females, where nearly 43 percent said they have experienced this in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, Japanese consumers enjoy their sleep the most as only 13 percent said they have faced sleep-related issues.

“Surprisingly, our findings revealed that women generally tend to experience more sleep-related problems compared to their male counterparts—a trend that is apparent in every single market surveyed,” observed Michael Mueller, APAC COO for Consumer Experience at GfK. “This could well be attributed to the acceptance of gender equality in today’s modern society lending to the rising demands of juggling both work and family that could be the cause of stress and insomnia.”

In this study, the possible health conditions asked about include skin conditions, allergies, vomiting or diarrhea, diabetes or pre-diabetes and high cholesterol or blood pressure. But, internationally, the top five most common conditions that people say they have experienced in the past 12 months are a cold (which was bundled with a cough, sore throat, upper respiratory infection, flu or influenza and was reported by 51 percent), problems sleeping (27 percent), muscle or joint pain due to injury or over exertion (25 percent), weight problems (21 percent) and migraines or severe headaches (21 percent percent).

It is interesting to highlight that the findings showed that consumers in Japan generally experience less health issues compared to others around the world. For instance, Japan ranks the lowest amongst all the countries for those who say they have experienced four of the five most common complaints— insomnia, muscle pain, weight problems and migraines. On top of this, over one in four (26 percent) respondents—the highest level for all the markets surveyed—said they have not experienced any of the mentioned health conditions. However, the only condition that Japanese appear to suffer from more than the international average is high cholesterol or high blood pressure/hypertension, at 15 percent versus 13 percent.

Looking at the breakdown between men and women internationally, reveals some clear gender differences. For almost all the conditions listed, women have higher percentages saying they have experienced these in the last 12 months than men. Both genders report a cold or cough as being the most common complaint, but, for women, the next most common complaint is insomnia (32 percent), while, for men, it is a tie-breaker between muscle or joint pain due to over-exertion or injury, and insomnia (both standing at 24 percent). There is also a difference in what items make it into the top five for each gender. For women, migraine or severe headache is their third most common complaint, but this does not feature in men’s top five list (reported by 27 percent of women and 15 percent of men). And for men, heartburn or acid reflux is their fourth most common complaint, but does not feature in the women’s top five list – even though more women than men report having experienced it over the last year (19 percent of men and 21 percent of women).

“The results of this survey serve as valuable insights into an increasingly important real-world perspective on patients’ perceptions of their health conditions,” said Mueller. “The information is especially useful for healthcare sector players when we combine these consumer awareness viewpoints with our quantitative health data and prescription research.”

About the study

GfK conducted an online survey with over 27,000 consumers aged 15 or older in 22 countries. Fieldwork was carried out over the summer 2015 and the data have been weighted to reflect the demographic composition of the online population age 15+ in each market. The countries included are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK and USA.

1The survey question asked: “Which of the following conditions have you experienced in the past 12 months? (Select all that apply): Skin conditions (such as psoriasis, eczema, acne) / Allergies / Depression, anxiety or other mental health issues / Chronic back or joint pain / Cold, cough, sore throat, upper respiratory infection, flu or influenza / Diabetes, pre-diabetes / Vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal cramps or other stomach ailments / Migraine or severe headaches / Heartburn or acid reflux / High cholesterol, high blood pressure or hypertension / Obesity or overweight / Insomnia, problems sleeping, sleep disorders / Muscle or joint soreness or pain due to over-exertion or injury / None of these”

About GfK

GfK is the trusted source of relevant market and consumer information that enables its clients to make smarter decisions. More than 13,000 market research experts combine their passion with GfK’s long-standing data science experience. This allows GfK to deliver vital global insights matched with local market intelligence from more than 100 countries. By using innovative technologies and data sciences, GfK turns big data into smart data, enabling its clients to improve their competitive edge and enrich consumers’ experiences and choices.

For more information, please visit or follow GfK on Twitter:

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