December 18, 2014

Power of Yoga to Improve Cardiovascular Risk

Is yoga good for your heart? It could be as healthy for your heart as cycling.

According to a new study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, yoga may be as beneficial as more traditional physical activities such as walking or biking in reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.

Investigators from the United States and Netherlands conducted a systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials, which included 2,768 subjects. The aim of the analysis was to examine whether yoga is beneficial in managing and improving cardiovascular disease risk factors and whether it could be an effective therapy for cardiovascular health.

The study compared those who practiced yoga with those who didn’t. Those who practiced yoga had:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Increased HDL (good cholesterol)

Results showed that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those practicing yoga than in those not taking part in any aerobic exercise. In fact, yoga had an effect on risk factors comparable to aerobic exercise.

The study’s authors write, “This finding is significant, as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in [cardiovascular] risk reduction.” They go on to observe that “Yoga has the potential to be a cost-effective treatment and prevention strategy given its low cost, lack of expensive equipment or technology, potential greater adherence and health-related quality of life improvements, and possible accessibility to larger segments of the population.”

The prevalence and cost of cardiac disease is growing. As the number 1 cause of death in America, heart disease accounts for some 600,000 deaths per year. Indeed, 40 percent of the U.S. population is expected to have some form of cardiovascular disease in the next 20 years, according to the American Heart Association. The cost of heart disease in healthcare services, medications, and lost productivity tops $109 billion per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The American Heart Association still recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, but this study could lead to yoga as a recommended therapy for patients with risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Linking yoga to cardiovascular health is not a new concept—for over 30 years, Dr. Dean Ornish has recommended yoga for reducing stress. In fact, the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart DiseaseTM includes yoga as one of the fundamental activities for reversing heart disease. To learn more about the Ornish program, please visit www.undoitwithornish.com.


Written by: Amy Katz

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

December 09, 2014

Understanding Well-Being in Europe, Region of Strong Contrasts

In a recent webinar, experts from Gallup and Healthways shared insights into the state of well-being in Europe. Using data from the recently released Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index™, the panelists discussed issues ranging from why well-being measurement matters to the specific challenges that Europe is facing regarding well-being. They also proposed some steps European nations can take to improve well-being, such as leveraging evidence-based tools and respecting cultural differences when delivering solutions.

The Global Well-Being Index is a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being. The most comprehensive measure of well-being in the world, the Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals to capture the important aspects of how people feel about and experience their daily lives, extending well beyond conventional measures of physical health or economic indicators. The five elements of well-being are purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

When it comes to well-being, Europe is a region characterized by considerable disparity among countries. On one end of the spectrum are countries such as Denmark, Austria and Sweden, whose percentages of residents thriving in more than three elements are 40, 39 and 36 percent, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum are Albania, Italy and Croatia, which all have fewer than 8 percent of their residents thriving in three or more elements.

One element in which Europe is particularly strong is financial well-being. As a region, Europe leads the world in this element, with 37 percent of Europeans thriving in financial well-being (versus 25 percent worldwide). The top seven countries in the world with the highest financial well-being are all located in northern or central Europe. Sweden has the world’s highest financial well-being, with 72 percent of residents thriving in this element. The other six European countries leading the world in this element are Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Iceland and Belgium.

When looking at the percentage of residents thriving, European results for the other well-being elements are as follows:

  • Purpose (22 percent thriving in Europe versus 18 percent worldwide)
  • Social (27 percent versus 23 percent)
  • Community (28 percent versus 26 percent)
  • Physical (22 percent versus 24 percent)
Well-Being in Europe

Well-Being in Europe

Physical well-being is the one element in which Europe is slightly behind global numbers. In Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Croatia, 15 percent or less of the population is thriving in this element. Even in France, with its universal healthcare system and high life expectancy, only 15 percent of residents are thriving in physical well-being.

The impact of the global recession is still being felt in the region, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, where unemployment is still high. Naturally, this will affect financial well-being, and we see low percentages of residents thriving in this element in countries such as Greece (11 percent), Serbia (12 percent), Bosnia-Herzegovina (13 percent) and Romania (15 percent).

The weak job market also impacts the purpose element of well-being, since this element centers on liking what you do each day. In Southern and Eastern European countries such as Albania, Croatia and Greece, where unemployment remains in the double digits, residents are much less likely to be thriving in this element (7 percent to 8 percent) than those in Western European nations such as Denmark (45 percent), Austria (36 percent) and Sweden (33 percent), where unemployment rates are much lower.

To learn more about well-being in Europe, you can replay our webinar “Measuring Matters: Insights on Europe from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index”. You can also download our State of Global Well-Being Report, which has details on Europe and much more.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

December 02, 2014

Well-Being in Asia Pacific, the World’s Most Populous Region

Asia Pacific is a region characterized by a wide range of wealth and development, with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan on one end of the spectrum and countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan on the other. As uncovered by the recently released Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index™, the distribution of well-being is likewise quite broad. New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines all have more than 24 percent of their residents thriving in three or more elements of well-being, while Bhutan has only 8 percent and Afghanistan has only 1 percent.

The Global Well-Being Index is a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being. The most comprehensive measure of well-being in the world, the Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals to capture the important aspects of how people feel about and experience their daily lives, extending well beyond conventional measures of physical health or economic indicators. The five elements of well-being are purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

The Global Well-Being Index reveals that in three of the five well-being elements, the region is fairly close to the world averages in terms of the percentage of residents thriving in that element:

  • Financial (25 percent in both Asia Pacific and worldwide)
  • Community (25 percent in Asia Pacific versus 26 percent worldwide)
  • Physical (23 percent in Asia Pacific versus 24 percent worldwide)
Well-Being in APAC_Radar Chart

Well-Being in Asia Pacific

In the other two well-being elements, Asia Pacific is lagging behind global averages. In purpose well-being, only 13 percent of residents are thriving, compared with 18 percent worldwide. The Philippines, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand top the region in this element, whereas only 1 percent of Afghans are thriving in purpose. The Philippines has the region’s highest purpose well-being percentage, at 32 percent. Filipinos have historically reported high positivity related to employment, which may explain their strong showing in this element.

The other element in which Asia Pacific trails the global number is social well-being. In Asia Pacific, 19 percent are thriving, as opposed to 23 percent globally. Forty-three percent of Mongolians and 42 percent of Vietnamese report thriving in social well-being (more than double the regional percentage). Once again, on the opposite end of the range is Afghanistan, with less than half of 1 percent of residents thriving.

In a recent webinar, panelists from Gallup and Healthways provided attendees with an exclusive and in-depth analysis of the findings for Asia Pacific. They provided an overview of well-being within the region, including a more extensive look at select countries, such as China, India and Indonesia. The panelists explained the importance of measuring well-being and offered proposed solutions as to what countries within the region can do to improve well-being.

To learn more about well-being in Asia Pacific, you can replay our webinar “Measuring Matters: Insights on Asia Pacific from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index”. You can also download our State of Global Well-Being Report, which has details on Asia Pacific and much more.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

November 19, 2014

The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index™ in the News

In September, the inaugural Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index was released. A definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being, the Global Well-Being Index provides insight into how people in 135 countries around the world perceive their own well-being.

Below, we’ve collected highlights of the news coverage:

USA Today: “USA is 12th, Panama 1st, in global well-being poll”

In some cases, [Peter Choueiri, president of Healthways International] says, results suggest a mismatch between perceptions and reality … Knowing about such mismatches, he says, can help governments, employers and insurers design culturally sensitive interventions.

Today.com: “What’s the happiest place on earth? It’s not the U.S., survey finds

Improvements in a nation’s well-being scores can translate into economic advances, said Peter Chouieri, president of Healthways International.

For instance, “if you raise well-being by one point only, you have a 1 percent reduction in the likelihood of incurring healthcare cost and a 2.2 percent reduction in the likelihood of hospital admission,” Choueiri said. “A 10 percent improvement in well-being translates into 5 percent fewer unscheduled absences and 24 percent lower [rates of employees showing up at work when sick].”

The Economist: “Thriving or surviving?”

So the irony is that although emerging-market economies look robust and have enjoyed impressive track records, their citizens do not feel they are benefiting from its fruits.

The Huffington Post: “The World’s Best (and Worst) Regions for Well-Being”

“The global well-being index comes at the perfect time,” Peter Choueiri, president of Healthways International, a health and well-being improvement company, told The Huffington Post. “Well-being has become more and more a topic of discussion, and it’s an increasing priority for the public and private sector worldwide.”

Business Insider: “The Top 10 Countries Where People Are Thriving”

The state of a country’s well-being says a lot about its prosperity and progress.

LiveScience: “World’s Happiest Country Is … (Hint: It Has a Canal)”

Most measurements of national performance focus on countries’ income, but measures such as health, education and security also contribute to well-being, experts say. “When we ask people to think about how their lives are going, to report on their daily emotions, and to tell us about their health, we gain a much broader picture of their well-being than can be inferred from traditional economic surveys,” Angus Deaton, a scientist at Gallup and a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, wrote about the Gallup report.

 The Telegraph: Brits feels financially secure but don’t much love their jobs”

“Because subjective well-being can correlate with outcomes such as healthcare costs, productivity, and business performance, world leaders should consider well-being, in addition to objective measures such as GDP, to provide a better picture of progress toward specific policy and development goals,” [Dan] Witters [of Gallup] said.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

November 06, 2014

Measuring Wellness Programs’ Efficacy and ROI

A feature from the September 2014 issue of Human Resource Executive highlights a couple of important points as employers assess the value of a wellness program:

  •  Wellness programs should look beyond the traditional laser focus on physical health and address the other four elements that make up an individual’s overall well-being: a sense of purpose, social relationships, financial stress and connection to community.
  •  Although reduction of healthcare costs is indeed an important value metric, employers should also evaluate their programs’ ability to improve employee productivity and reduce absenteeism, as well as other metrics.

According to the article, more employers are measuring value in this broader way. Findings from a Working Well survey reveal that organizations are considering outcomes in areas such as safety, productivity and reduced absences in addition to medical costs, while 65 percent of employers surveyed say that wellness programs are extremely or very important for attracting and retaining employees.

The article also describes the importance of having an accurate tool for assessing and measuring employee well-being, such as the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®. “Assessing employees’ well-being, a more holistic view of wellness than just the traditional measures of physical health and medical-cost reductions, will give organizations greater insight into the overall health of their workforce,” says Janet Calhoun, senior vice president of strategy, innovations and solutions at Healthways.

Read the full article here.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

October 10, 2014

Jobs Climate Related to Well-Being Worldwide

Link between job climate and well-being is
strongest in former Soviet Union
By: Dan Witters, Melanie Standish and Sangeeta Agrawal

Countries where higher percentages of adults report that it is a good time to find a job are also more likely to have adult residents who report high levels of well-being. Adults in the 10 countries with the best jobs outlook are nearly twice as likely to be thriving in at least three of the five elements when compared with their counterparts in the 10 countries with the worst jobs outlook (20.9% and 12.9% of respondents, respectively).

Average Well-Being of Countries Grouped by Reported Jobs, 2013

The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index is a global barometer of individuals’ perceptions of their well-being and is the largest recent study of its kind. Data collected in 2013, across 135 countries and areas, and with more than 133,000 interviews, have been compiled into the State of Global Well-Being, a comprehensive report presenting the global demographics of well-being. The Global Well-Being Index is organized into the five elements:

  • Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community
  • Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

For each of the five elements, Gallup classifies those who responded as “thriving” (well-being that is strong and consistent), “struggling” (well-being that is moderate or inconsistent), or “suffering” (well-being that is low and inconsistent). Globally, 17% of adults are thriving in at least three of the five elements.

Jobs Climate Linked to Well-Being in Every Region Worldwide

The relationship between the jobs climate and well-being is consistent in every region of the world. In the former Soviet Union and in the Middle East and North Africa regions, this is particularly true. Those who report that their community or area is a good environment for job seekers are about three times more likely to be thriving in three or more elements of well-being than those who do not.

Percentage Who Are Thriving in at Least 3 Elements of Well-Being, by Jobs Climate

Positive Jobs Climate Most Positively Affects Community Well-Being

The five individual elements of well-being, in turn, all positively relate to a good jobs climate, highlighting the multidimensional effect the perceived availability of jobs can have on the well-being of those who live in such environments. Although there are benefits for adults across five elements, community well-being is most affected, underscoring the potentially significant role that the jobs environment plays in the pride residents have in their community and their willingness to participate in efforts to make it better.

Adults Worldwide Who Are Thriving in Each Element of Well-Being, by Jobs ClimateImplications

The jobs climate and well-being share a reciprocal relationship, with each influencing the other. For example, areas — including countries — where residents have high well-being provide fruitful ground for potential employers, because they will have prospective employees who are active and productive while at work, miss few days of work due to poor health, and who have lower levels of healthcare use. In this manner, a citizenry with high well-being can drive economic vitality through an engine of jobs creation. At the same time, economic vitality and the good jobs that come from it will typically lead to residents having greater food, shelter, and healthcare security. They will also have greater pride in their communities, more secure relationships with their loved ones, better physical health outcomes, and a higher standard of living. All of these effects enhance well-being in tangible ways across each of the five elements.

It is important for world leaders to recognize that good jobs and well-being are closely linked, and that each can serve as a useful lever positively influence the other. In no regions worldwide is this influence more pointed than in the former Soviet Union and in the Middle East and North Africa, where a confluence of political uncertainty and violent conflict in many countries has created persistent unsteady conditions in a variety of ways. The nexus between jobs and the well-being of their populations may prove to be one of the most important vanguards of the long-term viability of these regions.

Survey Methods

Results for the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews on the Gallup World Poll, with a random sample of approximately 133,000 adults, aged 15 and older, living in 135 countries and areas in 2013.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is less than ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level. For results based on country-level samples, the margin of error ranges from a low of ±2.1 to a high of ±5.3.

All country-level analyses use country weights. Global and regional analysis uses projection weights that account for country size. Minimum sample sizes of N=300 apply.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Each element in the Global Well-Being Index contains two questions asked of all respondents:

Purpose

  • You like what you do every day.
  • You learn or do something interesting every day.

Social

  • Someone in your life always encourages you to be healthy.
  • Your friends and family give you positive energy every day.

Financial

  • You have enough money to do everything you want to do.
  • In the last seven days, you have worried about money.

Community

  • The city or area where you live is a perfect place for you.
  • In the last 12 months, you have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where you live.

Physical

  • In the last seven days, you have felt active and productive every day.
  • Your physical health is near-perfect.

This article is the final entry in a series exploring worldwide perceptions of well-being in the five well-being elements of the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index: purpose, social, financial, community, and physical.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

September 30, 2014

Lifestyle Changes Could Prevent Four Out of Five Heart Attacks in Men

Many men adopt healthier habits to get ready for a major life event, such as a family wedding, class reunion or once-in-a-lifetime vacation. But lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and more exercise can also help you avoid another major life event – a heart attack.

According to a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a healthy lifestyle could prevent four out of five coronary events in men.

The study followed more than 20,000 Swedish men aged 45-79 for 11 years, and assessed lifestyle choices related to tobacco use, diet, alcohol consumption, physical activity and waist size. Men who combined a healthy diet and moderate alcohol consumption with not smoking, being physically active and maintaining a low amount of abdominal fat had an 86 percent lower risk of heart attack.

According to the authors, each individual lifestyle factor correlated with a clear reduction in risk, but a combination of the low-risk behaviors had the greatest impact. However, even incremental changes yielded improvement – not smoking, for example, decreases risk by 35 percent.

Dr. Dean Ornish also recommends combining multiple behavior changes to achieve maximum results in addressing heart disease and heart attack risk. His program is the first program that is scientifically proven to reverse heart disease by making changes in four areas. In addition to nutrition and fitness, the Ornish program also focuses on stress management and social and family support.

Changes in diet and lifestyle not only reduce your risk of a life-threatening event. Research shows that they also make a powerful difference in heart function and overall well-being. Patients in the Ornish cardiac rehabilitation program report that they feel more energized, enjoy a higher quality of life, can exercise longer and manage stress more effectively.

As patients, providers and employers are looking for ways to maximize well-being and minimize healthcare costs, preventing heart disease and modifying risk-related behaviors should be a priority. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and 620,000 people suffer a first-time heart attack every year. According to the American Heart Association, direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular disease and stroke total more than $315.4 billion annually, including health expenditures and lost productivity.

Help is available to individuals who want to make a change. Many high-risk patients qualify for intensive cardiac rehabilitation programs such as the Ornish program, which is covered by Medicare and many other commercial insurance plans. Workplace programs that incorporate a holistic approach to well-being should offer assessments and interventions to improve cardiac health. The American Heart Association also offers extensive guidelines and tips on nutrition, physical activity and stress management.

To learn more about the Ornish program, please visit www.undoitwithornish.com.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

September 26, 2014

World Faces Shortage in Purpose Well-Being

Latin Americans have highest well-being in this area
By: Melanie Standish and Dan Witters

Fewer than one in five adults worldwide can be considered thriving — or strong and consistent — in levels of purpose well-being, as measured by the inaugural Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index in 2013. Residents living in the Americas are the most likely to be thriving in this element (37%), while those in Asia and the Middle East and North Africa are the least likely (13%).

Purpose Well-Being, by Region

The Global Well-Being Index measures each of the five elements of well-being — purpose, social, financial, community, and physical – through Gallup’s World Poll. Purpose well-being, which is defined as people liking what they do each day and being motivated to achieve their goals, was the lowest performing element of the five elements of well-being. Global results of how people fare in 135 countries and areas in this element, as well as the four other elements, have been compiled in the State of Global Well-Being report.

Latin Americans Have Highest Purpose Well-Being

Nearly all the countries with the highest thriving rates of purpose well-being in the world are in Latin America. Culture may play a role in these perceptions — Latin Americans generally report higher levels of positive daily emotions and have a better outlook on the job market than any other regional group. Denmark was the sole non-Latin American country in the top 10 countries with the highest percentage of the population that is thriving in purpose well-being.

Purpose Well-Being, Highest Ranked Countries

Panama led the world in four of the five well-being elements — including purpose well-being. Two in three Panamanian adults were thriving in purpose well-being. Panama’s strong and growing economy with an unemployment rate of 4.5% in 2013, coupled with investments in national development could be contributing to these high levels of thriving in well-being. Neighboring Costa Rica followed at 50%, despite relatively high unemployment for the region — nearly 9% in the third quarter of 2013.

Struggling Economies and Conflict Zones
Dominate Low Purpose Well-Being

Asia and the Middle East and North Africa performed worst in purpose well-being, with only 13% of adults in these regions thriving in this element. However, when looking at adults’ perceptions at the country level, trends among countries emerge and the lowest percentages appear to be associated with conflict zones and countries with poor economic performance.

Afghanistan and Syria struggled most in this element and had the lowest levels of purpose well-being, with 3% or less of adults thriving in this element. These two countries along with Tunisia, and to a lesser extent, Armenia, are embroiled in armed conflicts, which have disrupted daily lives and prevented portions of the population from carrying out normal functions.

Purpose Well-Being, Lowest Ranked Countries

Poor economies may also have affected purpose well-being. With only 7% of the population thriving in purpose, Greece is grappling with an economy that has yet to recover from the European debt crisis. Croatia has also suffered negative GDP growth since 2009 and high unemployment rates compared with Western European countries.

High Purpose Well-Being Influenced by Demographics of
Education, Wealth, and Youth

Worldwide, demographics play a role in the likelihood that people are thriving in purpose well-being. Those who were in domestic partnerships or who had completed four years of education beyond high school were more likely to be thriving in purpose well-being (27%) than the global population as a whole (18%).

The wealthiest quintile, urban residents, the young, and office workers were also more likely to be thriving than their poorer, more rural, older, or non-office worker counterparts. Globally, however, there was no difference in the level of thriving between men and women. Eighteen percent of each were thriving in this element.

Purpose Well-Being and Global Demographics, Highest %

Certain Employment Sectors and Less-Educated
Have Low Purpose Well-Being

Globally, adults who were employed in the fishing, forestry, and agriculture sectors were the least likely group to be thriving in purpose well-being, with 11% of respondents providing responses that placed them in this category. Those with an elementary education or less followed at 13%.

Purpose Well-Being and Global Demographics, Lowest %

The only region where education levels did not significantly affect people’s likelihood to thrive in purpose well-being was the Middle East and North Africa region, where 14% of those who have completed at least four years of education beyond high school are thriving in purpose, matching the 14% whose education did not go beyond the high school and tertiary level. In every other region surveyed, more highly educated respondents were significantly more likely to be thriving in purpose well-being than their less-educated counterparts in this element.

Women were significantly less likely to be thriving in purpose well-being (16%) than their male counterparts (20%) in former Soviet Union countries. The Americas saw women (36%) with slightly lower levels of purpose well-being thriving rates than their male counterparts (38%). There were no differences between genders in any of the remaining regions.

Implications

Purpose well-being is high when people like what they do each day and are motivated to achieve their goals. This is true whether they work for a company, are self-employed, care for family members, pursue education, work on a farm, or engage in charity work. Those with high well-being in this element also tend to be highly engaged in their work. They are emotionally invested in what they do and focus on creating value through their efforts.

When people are unable to find work or achieve other personal measures of success and well-being with respect to their purpose, it can impact areas beyond the individual and affect society as a whole. Such conditions fed the Arab Spring uprisings and fueled protests in European countries that enacted severe austerity cuts. In Panama, residents who have high purpose well-being (66% thriving) were more than twice as likely (at 37%) to have donated money to charity in the last year than were Mexicans (16%), whose purpose well-being level was only at a 33% thriving rate.

“It is important for any stakeholder who is interested in improving the health of their population including governments, community leaders, employers, insurers and other international organizations to understand the impact that purpose well-being has on overall well-being,” says Peter Choueiri, President, Healthways International. “Our research shows that purpose well-being has a high correlation with social, financial, community, and physical well-being. In other words, investments in purpose well-being improvement will likely also lift the other elements of well-being resulting in lower medical costs and an improvement in productivity across whole populations.”

Survey Methods

Results for the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews on the Gallup World Poll, with a random sample of approximately 133,000 adults, aged 15 and older, living in 135 countries and areas in 2013.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is less than ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level. For results based on country-level samples, the margin of error ranges from a low of ±2.1 to a high of ±5.3.

All country-level analyses use country weights. Global and regional analysis uses projection weights that account for country size. Minimum sample sizes of N=300 apply.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Each element in the Global Well-Being Index contains two questions asked of all respondents:

Purpose

  • You like what you do every day.
  • You learn or do something interesting every day.

Social

  • Someone in your life always encourages you to be healthy.
  • Your friends and family give you positive energy every day.

Financial

  • You have enough money to do everything you want to do.
  • In the last seven days, you have worried about money.

Community

  • The city or area where you live is a perfect place for you.
  • In the last 12 months, you have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where you live.

Physical

  • In the last seven days, you have felt active and productive every day.
  • Your physical health is near-perfect.

This article is the second of three articles exploring worldwide perceptions of well-being in the five well-being elements measured in the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index: purpose, social, financial, community, and physical.


Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

September 25, 2014

Infographic: Well-Being Around the World

The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index™ provides fascinating insight into how people all around the world feel about their own well-being. The index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals to capture the important aspects of how people feel about and experience their daily lives, extending well beyond conventional measures of physical health or economic indicators.

Well-being has five prominent elements:

  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

Which countries’ residents have strong well-being? And, conversely, where does much work remain to be done in terms of well-being improvement?

Take a look at the infographic below to see a snapshot of well-being around the world. For a more in-depth analysis, download the full report.

Well Being: A Global Snapshot











Written by: Madison Agee

Visit the Healthways Linkedin page to add your comments.

September 16, 2014

Country Well-Being Varies Greatly Worldwide

Panamanians have the highest well-being globally; Syrians and Afghans, the lowest
By: Melanie Standish and Dan Witters, Gallup

One in six adults worldwide are considered thriving — or strong and consistent — in at least three of the five elements of well-being, as measured by the inaugural Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index in 2013. Residents of the Americas region are the most likely to be thriving in three or more elements (33%), while those in sub-Saharan Africa are the least likely (9%).

Elements of Well-Being - Worldwide and by RegionEach element of well-being is important on its own, but the elements are also interdependent and well-being is more than the sum of the elements. That only 17% of residents in the 135 countries and areas surveyed are thriving in three or more elements underscores how most of the world is struggling to achieve high well-being.

More adults globally are thriving in community well-being (26%) than in any other element. Residents in the Americas region, with more than one in three (37%) thriving, are most likely to be thriving in this element. Adults in sub-Saharan Africa are the least likely to be thriving (18%).

Fewer adults globally are thriving in purpose well-being than in any other element. Adults in Asia, as well as the Middle East and North Africa, are least likely to be thriving in this element (13% in each region), while those in the Americas again top the list of regions, at 37% thriving in purpose well-being.

Global Well-Being Index Largest Recent Global Study of Well-Being

The Global Well-Being Index is an extension of more than six years of research and 2 million interviews in the U.S. through the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The Global Well-Being Index is a global barometer of individuals’ perceptions of their well-being and is the largest recent study of its kind. Data collected in 2013, across 135 countries and areas, and with more than 133,000 interviews, have been compiled into the State of Global Well-Being, a comprehensive report presenting the global demographics of well-being. The Global Well-Being Index is organized into the five elements:

  • Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community
  • Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

In analyzing the results of the index, Gallup classifies responses as “thriving” (well-being that is strong and consistent), “struggling” (well-being that is moderate or inconsistent), or “suffering” (well-being that is low and inconsistent).

Thriving Rates Highest in Latin American and European Countries

Adults in Latin America are most likely to be thriving in well-being in three or more elements as well as across elements. Latin Americans generally report higher levels of well-being than any other regional group. This is consistent with other Gallup World Poll research that shows residents of Latin America generally evaluating their lives more highly than those in other regional groups, partly reflecting a cultural tendency in the region to focus on the positives in life.

Thriving in 3+ Elements of Well-Being - the 10 Highest CountriesPanama leads not only the region, but the world in four of the five well-being elements — purpose, social, community, and physical well-being. Sixty-one percent of Panamanians are thriving in three or more elements, 17 percentage points ahead of its second-place neighbor, Costa Rica (44%). Panama’s strong and growing economy, an unemployment rate of 4.5% in 2013, and national development may be the most significant factors contributing to its high thriving levels.

Financial well-being is the only element in which other countries’ residents top Panama’s. Swedes lead the world in financial well-being, with 72% thriving. Financial well-being is high across a range of northern and central European countries, including Austria (64% thriving), Denmark (59%), and the Netherlands (56%).

All Elements of Well-Being - 10 Highest CountriesOnly five countries outside of the Americas and Europe regions have levels of thriving within an element that rank in the top 10 of all countries — Bahrain in financial well-being (48%), Saudi Arabia in community well-being (43%) and physical well-being (39%), Malta in social well-being (47%), and Sri Lanka (50%) and the United Arab Emirates (49%) in community well-being. No countries outside of these two regions finished in the top 10 in thriving in three or more elements.

Sub-Saharan Africa Least Thriving Region

Adults in sub-Saharan Africa are the least likely to be thriving in three or more elements of well-being (9%), in addition to their low levels of financial well-being (9%), social well-being (16%), community well-being (18%), and physical well-being (20%). Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Chad, Madagascar, Uganda, and Benin residents have some of the lowest levels of thriving in the world. Most of these countries are plagued by war, political turmoil, low levels of development, and endemic corruption. DRC, for example, has been embroiled in nearly continuous conflict since 1996, and is rife with political instability.

Although subjective well-being is dire in many sub-Saharan African countries, the situation is worse in Afghanistan and Syria. In 2013, just 1% of Syrian and Afghan adults were thriving in three or more elements; the two nations share the lowest well-being of the 135 countries and areas in the 2013 survey. Both countries are conflict zones. By the end of 2013, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that 6.5 million of a total population of 22 million Syrians would need humanitarian aid, and 4.25 million of those would be internally displaced.

Thriving in 3+ Elements of Well-Being - the 10 Lowest CountriesAfghans are also awash in uncertainty about the country’s future security situation and its relative stability once foreign aid and investments level off. In a 2013 Gallup World Poll survey, more Afghans said their standard of living was getting worse than in any year since 2008, and most Afghans (61%) said it was a bad time for them to find a job. Against this backdrop, Afghans are the most likely of any population in the world not to be thriving in any element of well-being (75%).

All Elements of Well-Being - 10 Lowest Countries

Implications

Objective measures including GDP, life expectancy, and employment statistics are important and useful in assessing a country’s “success,” as are historical trends over time. However, the concept of subjective well-being encompasses the broader aspects of a life well-lived.

Gallup and Healthways research has shown that people with higher well-being are healthier, more productive, and more resilient in the face of challenges such as unemployment. People with higher well-being bounce back faster, are better able to take care of their own basic needs, and feel better able to contribute to and support the success of their organizations, communities, or countries.

Subjective well-being does not necessarily correlate with GDP, the presence of conflict, or other absolute indicators. Residents in poor countries may report that they have high well-being in certain well-being elements while those in wealthy countries may report that they have low well-being in particular elements. War-torn populations such as those in Syria may have extremely low well-being, but low levels are also found in countries that are relatively stable, such as Croatia and Italy.

There are policy implications for country leadership, development organizations, employers, health insurers (private and governmental), and others in the well-being status of their constituents. For example, Mexico has relatively high physical well-being scores. However, the country overtook the U.S. in 2013 as the most obese country in the Western Hemisphere and grapples with a high rate of diabetes. Diabetes and heart disease are the two most common causes of death in Mexico. While the physical well-being element captures more than just obesity, the high scores on this element in Mexico reveal areas where education is needed to help the population become more aware of health and healthy behaviors, and make better choices.

Because subjective well-being can correlate with outcomes such as healthcare costs, productivity, and business performance, world leaders should consider well-being, in addition to objective measures such as GDP, to provide a better picture of progress toward specific policy and development goals.

Survey Methods

Results for the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews on the Gallup World Poll, with a random sample of approximately 133,000 adults, aged 15 and older, living in 135 countries and areas in 2013.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is less than ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level. For results based on country-level samples, the margin of error ranges from a low of ±2.1 to a high of ±5.3.

All country-level analyses use country weights. Global and regional analysis uses projection weights that account for country size. Minimum sample sizes of N=300 apply.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Each element in the Global Well-Being Index contains two questions asked of all respondents:

Purpose

  • You like what you do every day.
  • You learn or do something interesting every day.

Social

  • Someone in your life always encourages you to be healthy.
  • Your friends and family give you positive energy every day.

Financial

  • You have enough money to do everything you want to do.
  • In the last seven days, you have worried about money.

Community

  • The city or area where you live is a perfect place for you.
  • In the last 12 months, you have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where you live.

Physical

  • In the last seven days, you have felt active and productive every day.
  • Your physical health is near-perfect.

This article is the first in a series of three articles exploring worldwide perceptions of well-being in the five well-being elements of the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index: purpose, social, financial, community, and physical.











Written by: Madison Agee

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