How Body-Obsessed are Americans? 72 Percent Prefer Debt to Extra Pounds

With bathing suit season in full swing, Credit Karma examines Americans’ attitudes about their physical appearance and health, compared to their finances

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July 31, 2013

San Francisco, Calif. -

It’s summertime. As the temperature and humidity rise, Americans flock to beaches and pools. So Credit Karma, a personal finance company with 15 million members, wanted to know: do Americans care more about their looks or their debt?

A survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that debt-ridden Americans often put their physical appearance ahead of their financial state. In fact, a whopping 72 percent of Americans would rather keep their current debt, than gain 25 pounds and be completely debt free. The June 2013 survey was conducted online among 2,021 Americans ages 18 and older.

Weight trumps debt for many Americans this summer. Forty-three percent agree, “How much I weigh is more important than how much debt I have.” Interestingly, women were less likely to agree with this statement than men (38 percent vs. 49 percent), disputing a traditional stereotype about women and their weight.

The scales tip when bankruptcy enters the equation. When asked to choose between bankruptcy and obesity, 62 percent say they would prefer to be obese, but free from all debt. Thirty-eight percent say being their “ideal weight” is preferable, even if it means dealing with bankruptcy.

More findings about looks vs. finances, according to U.S. adults in debt:

  • Nearly two-thirds of adults (64 percent) think about their physical appearance, more than their debt. Sixty-eight percent of women were more likely to agree with this statement than men (61 percent)
  • Roughly one-third (35 percent) worry about how they look, more than the debt they are in. Adults 18-34 years old are more likely to worry about their looks compared to those 55+ (36 percent vs. 28 percent).
  • When asked which they care more about, 70 percent care more about their physical health, than their financial health. Not surprisingly, older adults (78 percent of those 55+) value their physical health more.

Ken Lin – Credit Karma’s Chief Consumer Advocate – says physical health is clearly important to Americans. “Beginning 30 years ago, there was an educational push around nutrition and fitness, and our knowledge about those issues has come a long way,” says Lin.

“We want a similar focus on Americans’ financial well-being. Our goal is to help consumers become educated about their finances by giving them free, online tools that quickly assess their entire financial health – including credit score – and gives them suggestions on how to improve their financial situation.”

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Credit Karma from June 13 to 17, 2013, among 2,021 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Madeline Willman of SHIFT Communications at mwillman@shiftcomm.com.

About Credit Karma:
CreditKarma.com provides more than 15 million consumers financial peace of mind by tracking their credit and finances all in one place for free. Credit Karma’s goal is to help its members make the most of their credit by offering insightful saving recommendations based on unique data comparisons. It also provides financial education and access to free tools, such as the free Credit Report Card and Card Statics, which empower consumers to take charge of their financial health. For more information, please visit www.creditkarma.com.

About Harris Interactive:
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client's research investment. Serving clients in more than 196 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.