NewYork, 27.10.2015

In US, Colds, Coughs, and Sore Throats Are Most Commonly Reported Health Complaint

  • US teens, young adults more likely to report colds than older consumers
  • Allergies, sleep disorders, weight problems also appear in US top 5; study covered 22 countries

With the winter months approaching and flu season beginning around the US, a GfK study shows that Americans cite colds, coughs and sore throats as the most common category of illness they have faced recently – with a higher incidence among teens and young adults than older consumers. These findings come from a recent GfK online survey that asked over 27,000 people in 22 countries which health conditions they had experienced in the past 12 months.

Top five international complaints
Internationally, over half of those surveyed (51%) say they have had a cough or cold in the last year, echoing the trend found in the US, and over a quarter (27%) globally report suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders. Muscle/joint soreness closely follows sleep disorders, with 25% in agreement. Weight problems (obesity, over/underweight) and migraines (severe headaches) also make the top five around the world, each coming in at 21%.

David Mackenzie, Global Lead for Health Research at GfK, comments, “By combining these consumer awareness viewpoints with our quantitative health data and prescription research, we provide our clients with an increasingly important real-world perspective on patients’ perceptions of their conditions.”

Colds are number one for men and women globally
With 49% of men and 53% of women in agreement, colds, coughs and sore throats claim the top spot for each group globally. Men report suffering from muscle/joint pain and sleeping disorders in equal proportions (24%), followed by heartburn (19%) and weight problems (18%).

Women share nearly the same ailments, though at differing rates. Sleep disorders claim second place at 32%, followed by migraines (27%), muscle/joint pain (26%) and weight problems (24%).

US results
US illnesses suffered in the past year nearly match those found globally. In second place after colds (39%), about one-third (35%) of Americans reported experiencing allergies. Sleep disorders came in third (29%), while weight problems and muscle/joint pain (each 27%) tied for fourth.

When looking at men and women, again, the results are largely similar. Both groups report colds as the most common ailment – 35% of men and 42% of women. For men, colds are closely followed by allergies (35%), high cholesterol/blood and heartburn (26% each), and muscle/joint pain (25%). After colds, American women suffered from allergies (39%), sleep disorders (34%), weight problems (32%) and muscle/joint pain (29%).

Almost half (46%) of US teens (ages 15 to 19) reported having a cold, cough or flu in the past year, as well as 42% of those ages 20 to 29. By contrast, the lowest US incidence (31%) was found among those ages 60 and up.

For more information on GfK’s international research into people’s attitudes and behavior, please contact press(at)

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.

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.​

Top 5 Health Problems People Face within a Year

Top 3 Health Problems People Face within a Year

Latest Press Releases

View all Press