Americans’ Well-Being Index score improved to an average of 66.8 in 2010 from 65.9 in 2009 and 2008, according to new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data. This year-over-year increase in overall wellbeing reflects increases across five of the six key areas of wellbeing, with the largest gains in how Americans evaluate their lives overall.
Life Evaluation Up Significantly
Americans’ life evaluation score increased four points, from 45.8 to 49.8, building on a five-point gain between 2008 and 2009. Healthy behavior had the next-highest gain, 1.1 points, improving from 63 to 64.1. This reversed a 0.7 point drop between 2008 and 2009.
The highest overall score was for basic access, 82.3, a slight improvement from 82.1 a year earlier. The one area out of the six covered that fell year-over-year in 2010 was work environment, which dropped one point from 49.2 to 48.2. However, this was still an improvement from its 2.2 point drop in 2009.
Every area except life evaluation dropped in score between 2008 and 2009.
First Half Drives Overall Annual Scores
Although overall Well-Being Index scores mostly show improvement between 2009 and 2010, monthly scores reveal that Americans’ higher level of well-being in 2010 resulted from relatively better scores in the first half of the year. Americans’ overall wellbeing and performance in each of the six key areas of well-being deteriorated in the last months of 2010, dropping to match 2009 levels by year’s end.
Specifically, Americans’ Well-Being Index score fell to 66 in December 2010, from 66.5 in November, essentially matching the 66.1 in December 2009. The monthly trend shows Americans’ well-being has been heading downward since reaching an all-time high of 67.4 in May 2010.
Basic Access, Workplace Scores Indicate Problems
While Americans’ life evaluations, healthy behaviors, and emotional health have clearly recovered post-recession, Gallup analysis suggests access to basic necessities and perceptions toward the workplace continue to lag behind pre-economic crisis levels. The lack of recovery in these areas, which provide a measure of two key problems that the recession brought on, lower incomes at the individual and community level and a reduced number of high-quality jobs , highlights what Gallup calls the deeply entrenched effects of the housing market crash and ensuing financial meltdown.
Average American Weighs 16 Lbs. More than Ideal
In a sign of other possible US well-being issues, American adults, on average, report that they weigh 177 pounds, but would like to weigh 161, according to other recent Gallup data. Sixty-two percent are over their ideal weight, 19% are at their ideal weight, and 11% are under their ideal weight.
Looking at gender differences, the average man weighs 193 pounds, 12 pounds more than the average ideal weight of 181 pounds. Fifty-nine percent of US men are overweight, 22% are at their ideal weight, and 15% are underweight.
Meanwhile, the average woman weighs 159 pounds, 19 pounds more than the average ideal weight of 140 pounds. Sixty-five percent of US women are overweight, 17% are at their ideal weight, and 9% are underweight.