We’d rather be healthy than wealthy, according to a new survey from Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L), the PR firm that’s part of the global communications company, Publicis. MS&L polled Americans’ beliefs on health and self-esteem.

Three-quarters (72%) of Americans say that being physically healthy is a symbol of personal success. 91% of Americans said they’d rather be described ads “healthy” than “wealthy.” 71% said they’d rather be seen as someone who “looks really healthy” vs. someone who’s nicely “put together or well-dressed.”

These will be glad tidings for MS&L’s client base. MS&L serves a global health clientele which includes companies in consumer health (J&J, P&G), biotech (Amgen and Genentech), pharmaceuticals (GSK, Eli Lilly), medical devices (Phillips), and health plans and providers (Kaiser, Partners).

Some of the findings include:
– 2/3 of Americans would rather be considered “someone with inner peace and emotional well-being” vs. 1/3 who would like to be seen as “someone socially outgoing and well-liked).
58% prefer not to socialize with people who lead unhealthy lifestyles.
– 80% of Americans say that being emotionally healthy is a “major” symbol of success.
MS&L’s findings cross age, income, and ethnicity. They term these findings as a “passion for wellness” and have constructed a new market research offering around this trend called “HealthEsteem.” According to the company’s press release, the model will, “analyze and identify the intersection where personal motivations, aspirations and perceptions (MAP) of health make an impact on consumers’ brand preferences and purchasing decisions.”

Health Populi’s Hot Points: These findings should be encouraging to consumer-facing health businesses…which include every health stakeholder in the U.S. at this stage in the market. Whatever form of health financing we have in the U.S., consumers need to play a larger role in decision making, co-paying and -financing, and partnering in the production of their individual health. Whether MS&L’s MAP model will help vendors to the industry help change consumers’ less-than-ideal health behaviors — versus their inner values for health as demonstrated by this survey — remains to be seen. But in the before-and-after photos we see this time of year to promote healthy eating and fitness, I’m hopeful MS&L can convert more Americans to “afters.” That must go beyond healthy eating and exercise; it goes for the entire spectrum of health engagement. If health engagement can become a status symbol, like carrying an iPod, a Jimmy Choo doctor bag (shown at left), or Bose quiet headphones, I’ll concede that we’re in consumer-driven health mode.