Americans rank mental health, cancer, drug abuse, and obesity as nation’s top health issues after COVID

Waiting times and lack of staff are perceived as the biggest problems with most countries’ healthcare system while cost of treatment tops the list in the U.S.: 2021 Global Health Service Monitor

The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Jocelyn Duran Account Manager, US, Public Affairs
  • Natalie Pearson Content Manager, UK
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New York, NY, October 25, 2021 — Ipsos’ Global Health Service Monitor 2021 finds the same level of concern for COVID-19 in the United States as on average across 30 countries surveyed. COVID ranks as the public’s top health concern in 27 of the 30 countries, including the U.S. Seven in 10 adults on average globally (70%) and in the U.S. (68%) consider COVID to be one of the biggest problems facing their countries today. The survey finds that Americans tend to be more concerned about mental health and drug abuse, and less concerned about cancer, stress, diabetes, and smoking than are people in other countries.

The new Global Health Service Monitor also highlights that Americans are significantly more likely than other people to view healthcare in their country as too costly (52% vs. a 30-country average of 31%) and good health as unaffordable for many people in their country (67% vs. 58%). Americans are also less likely to believe their healthcare system provides the same standard of care to everyone (27% vs. 39%).

On the other hand, Americans are more likely to agree they find it easy to get an appointment with doctors in their local area than are people do on average across the 30 countries (58% vs. 48%) and less likely to agree that waiting times to get an appointment with doctors are too long (40% vs. 60%). Americans are also more likely to agree they can easily get information about healthcare services (62% vs. 55%) and how to look after their health (65% vs. 57%).

Overall, Americans are more likely than average to rate the quality of the healthcare they have access to positively: 67% say it’s “very good” or “good” vs. a 30-country average of 53%. However, satisfaction in the U.S. is down 4 percentage points from last year. The survey finds the highest levels of healthcare satisfaction in Singapore (where 79% rate the quality of the care they can access as very good or good), Switzerland (78%), Australia (78%), and the Netherlands (77%).

Detailed Findings

Americans are more concerned about mental health and drug abuse  

Besides COVID-19, the health concerns Americans most widely perceive as the biggest ones facing their country today are mental health (cited by 35%), cancer (22%), drug abuse (20%), and obesity (20%).  

The proportions of Americans who consider mental health and drug abuse among their country’s top health problems are higher (by 4 and 7 percentage points, respectively) than those seen on average globally. In reverse, Americans are less likely to cite cancer (by 12 points), stress (9 points), diabetes (5 points), and smoking (4 points). 

chart 1

COVID-19 still leads 

Coronavirus/COVID-19 is perceived as the #1 health problem in all 30 countries except Hungary, Poland, and Russia where cancer does. It is cited by an average of 70% globally (down 2 points from last year) and 68% in the U.S. (up 2 points). The highest levels of concern for COVID-19 are seen in Malaysia (93%) and Peru (90%), Japan (85%), Mexico (85%), and Brazil (84%).  

Countries showing the highest level of concern for cancer are Russia (61%), Belgium (55%), Italy (53%), Poland (53%), and Spain (53%). For mental health, it is Sweden (63%) and Chile (59%). For stress, it is Peru (35%), Argentina (34%), and South Korea (33%). 

Mexico leads on concern for both obesity (52% vs. a global average of 19%) and diabetes (48% vs. 13%). Argentina leads on concern about drug abuse (34% vs. 13%). South Africa leads on concern about alcohol abuse (31% vs. 11%) and sexually transmitted diseases (12% vs. 2%). Russia leads on concern about heart disease (27% vs. 11%). Saudi Arabia leads on concern about smoking (23% vs. 9%). Great Britain and South Korea lead on concern about dementia (14% each vs. 4%), and Hungary does on hospital superbugs (18% vs. 2%). 


Satisfaction with the quality of healthcare in the U.S. is down from last year 

Two-thirds of Americans (67%) are satisfied with the quality of healthcare they and their families have access to. This is 4 points less than last year and puts the U.S. in the same tier as Canada (64%) and Great Britain (68%), but a lower one than Singapore (79%), Switzerland (78%), Australia (78%), and the Netherlands (77%).  


The U.S. stands out on the cost of accessing treatment 

The cost of accessing treatment (cited by 52%) ranks as the number one problem with the healthcare system in the U.S., while it is only the third most important problem globally (average of 31%). Among all countries surveyed, the U.S. trails only Chile (58%) in the percentage of its citizens citing the cost of treatment among their healthcare system’s top problems.  

Bureaucracy (30%) ranks as the second most important problem with the healthcare system in the U.S., while it is fourth worldwide (26%).  


Two-thirds of Americans agree that people in their country cannot afford good health  

Sixty-seven percent of those in the U.S. agree that good health is unaffordable for many people in their country. This is 9 points higher than the global average of 58%. Only one-quarter (27%) of Americans believe that the U.S. healthcare system provides the same standard of care to everyone, well below the global average of 39%.  

In contrast, long wait times and not enough staff are the two systemic problems globally, but not in the U.S. Less than one-quarter of Americans (22%) cite long wait times as the main problem in the U.S. health system, vs. an average of 41% across the 30 countries surveyed – a difference of 19 points. And while 28% in the U.S. view the lack of sufficient staff as a top problem, 39% on average globally do – a difference of 11 points. Nevertheless, Americans are just as likely to say the healthcare system is overstretched as those in other countries: 55% of in the U.S. and 56% on average globally say the healthcare system is overstretched.  

Americans' concern over personal data being made available to third parties without consent is also on par with the worldwide average (56%).  


Americans are divided on whether vaccinating against infectious diseases should be compulsory  

Globally, 62% on average agree that vaccines for infectious diseases should be mandatory while 17% disagree. In the U.S., agreement is lower (50%), but disagreement is the same as it is globally (17%).  Support for mandatory vaccination is highest in Brazil (81%), Malaysia (81%), Peru (77%), and Mexico (76%), and lowest in Russia (34%) and Hungary (42%). 4


About the Study

These are the findings of an Ipsos online survey conducted between August 20 and September 3, 2021. 

The survey was conducted in 30 countries around the world, its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 21,513 adults ages 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Israel, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey. In Singapore, Ipsos interviewed adults ages 21-74 and 16-74 in 24 other markets.  Approximately 1,000 individuals participated in each of the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the U.S. In Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey, Ipsos interviewed 500 individuals each. 

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75. The samples in other countries (Brazil, China, Chile, Colombia, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and Turkey) produce a national sample that is more urban and educated, and with higher incomes than their fellow citizens. The survey results for these countries should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more "connected" segment of their population. 

Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country Census data. 

The "Global Country Average" reflects the average result for all countries and markets where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country and is not intended to suggest a total result. 

Where results do not sum to 100 or the difference appears to be plus or minus one point more or less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of "don't know" or not stated responses. 

The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to plus or minus 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to plus or minus 5.0 percentage points. For more information on the use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.  

The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations. 


For more information on this news release, please contact:

Nicolas Boyon 
Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, U.S. 

[email protected]  

Kate Silverstein 

Media Relations Specialist, Public Affairs, U.S. 

[email protected]


About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third-largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts, and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions, and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers, or employees. We serve more than 5,000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS: FP

The author(s)

  • Nicolas Boyon Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
  • Jocelyn Duran Account Manager, US, Public Affairs
  • Natalie Pearson Content Manager, UK

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