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Healthy and Unhealthy Trends

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The good news in a Harris Poll about Americans' healthy or unhealthy lifestyles: Increasing numbers of people always use a seatbelt. The bad news: Many of them likely have trouble getting the belt around their waist.

To even out single-year blips in the data, the Harris report looked at health factors in multi-year increments dating back to 1983. In the period 1983-1985, 59 percent of respondents age 25-plus were overweight and 15 percent obese. By 1996-2000, 75 percent were overweight and 28 percent obese. And in 2006-2009 (including polling fielded last month), 80 percent were overweight and 35 percent obese.

It's not that Americans became generally more reckless about their health during these years. The incidence of cigarette smoking drifted down from 29 percent in the 1983-1985 period to 21 percent in 2006-2009. And the percentage of people saying they always wear seatbelts while in the front seat of a vehicle rose from 29 percent in 1983-1985 to 88 percent in 2006-2009.