The Well-Being Journal

Stress in the US: The Well-Being of American Women

Jennifer Rudloff

Recently Healthways and the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® were featured on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. The story titled 'Most Stressed Out' in U.S.? Middle-Aged Women Have Lowest Well-Being, Study Finds focused on the well-being of America’s baby boomer women. These women are balancing the demands of a career, supporting their children, taking care of their aging parents, and finding time for their husbands. These super women really are doing it all but it's taxing on their own well-being.

In conjunction with this broadcast, Nikki Duggan, Director of Well-Being Strategy at Healthways was interviewed and provided an analysis of the data on the theme of “Caregivers: The Well-Being of American Women Ages 45-64.”

Talk about the latest study from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®:

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What were the major findings from this study?

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Is there anything else you'd like to share about this study?

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What can these women do to improve their well-being?

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What's the biggest thing you'd like to note about the Well-Being Index?

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Some Surprising Facts about Caregivers:

  • More than 1 in 6 American workers also act as caregivers
  • Caregiving costs the U.S. economy $25.2 Billion in lost productivity
  • The majority of caregivers say caregiving has at least some impact on their performance at work
  • Annually, 126,222,624 workdays are lost among full-time workers because of caregiving
  • 72% of caregivers say they provide care for a parent
  • 67% say the person is 75 years of age or older
  • The majority (55%) of caregivers said they'd been providing care for 3 or more years.
  • 31% reported care between 1 and 3 years
  • On average, caregivers spend 13 days per month shopping, preparing food, housekeeping, doing laundry, providing transportation, and giving medication.
  • On average, they spend 6 days per month helping the family member/friend they're caring for to eat, dress, groom, walk, bathe, and visit the toilet

These and other facts can be found in a series of articles at

Topics: Healthy Living ABC World News Well-Being In the News Well-Being Index Stress Baby Boomers Wellness Healthways Caretakers

The Interconnectivity of Well-Being

Jennifer Rudloff

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To learn more about the domains of well-being and how they're connected check out
Well-Being Defined

For more on the Well-BeingIndex, visit

Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being Well-Being Index Wellness Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks Healthways Well-being Assessment

Insights from the Well-Being Index: June 2011

Jennifer Rudloff

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For more information on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index visit

Topics: Healthy Living Basic Access In the News Predictions Work Environment Physical Health Emotional Health Well-Being Index Life Evaluation Healthways Wellness Trends

Are You Seeing the Big Picture?

Jennifer Rudloff

It’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of your organization to stay in tune with employee needs and challenges, and engagement levels. You can’t move what you can’t measure. This need to measure has led to a seemingly endless stream of surveys. There are health risk assessments, engagement surveys, presenteeism surveys, and the list goes on…Like many other people in the market, we recognized that there had to be a better way.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to look far for the answer. Realizing the power behind our work with Gallup on the Well-Being Index (WBI) Healthways quickly asked how we could apply the science and research behind the WBI to individual employers or health plans. As a result, Healthways went to work building a tool that combined elements of the WBI with those of other common surveys, creating a comprehensive tool to measure the health and well-being of an employer population. This resulted in the birth of the Healthways Well-Being Assessment™ (WBA).

This is not your typical survey. It goes far beyond the standard HRA question set and shifts focus to include the entire individual - and for good reason. Research increasingly reveals vital linkages between healthcare costs, productivity, physical health, emotional health, health behavior, work environment, social support, and basic access to necessary resources. Shifting away from purely physical health, the WBA leverages WBI questions for a baseline comparison against the nation, with an emphasis on employee health, productivity, and the work environment. With an understanding of employee engagement, health, and well-being, organizations can better determine where to focus efforts to influence the greatest performance opportunities, both financial and personal, within their populations. Makes sense, right? Individual and population-level reports generated from the WBA provide an intimate, holistic view of the workplace and actionable information that can help guide decisions on health benefits, work environment, corporate culture and overall business performance.

In more detail the WBA allows organizations to:

  • Gain a comprehensive view of employees’ social, emotional, physical and financial well-being to understand how to target investments that best support those needs.
  • Assess the real quality of the work environment, including its stressors, culture, leadership, wellness and prevention programs, and recruitment and retention strategies to determine exactly where improvements are needed for a more engaged workforce.
  • Benchmark your organization or institution nationally, regionally and locally; or by job, business unit or location. (Who else can provide a real-time benchmark against the nation.)
  • Create customized solutions for your unique workforce to provide a more supportive work environment and earn recognition as an employer of choice.
  • Understand the health conditions the workforce is experiencing and how you can support them for optimal productivity and minimal absenteeism.
  • Learn what the significant contributors are to direct medical costs – whether they are systemic or exist in unique locations within the organization – and apply the findings to design and target ways to better address health cost drivers and reduce healthcare costs.
  • Use the results as a market differentiator to retain and attract customers. (for health plans)
  • Make specific comparisons among subsets of their populations and conduct year-to-year comparisons to gauge progress over time.

Human performance drives business performance in every organization. While many organizations use HRAs to understand and improve workforce health and guide programs to reduce healthcare costs, they’re missing the big picture. There are many factors that influence our well-being and impact performance. The Healthways WBA offers organization-specific insight on these factors. Results magnify opportunities to maximize the outcomes of health and performance program investments, and to measure their impact and effectiveness over time.

Do you believe this broader approach to assessing the well-being of your workforce seems like the right idea? Is learning more about emotional, social, work culture, and the access variables of your organization important to you? Is it time the standard HRA evolves into more? We’d love to get your thoughts.

Topics: Well-Being Benchmark Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Business Performance Innovations in Healthcare Health Well-Being Index Competitive Advantage Prevention HRA How to Improve Employee Performance Health in the Workplace Wellness Healthways Employee Performance Improvement WBA WBI Well-being Assessment

When it Comes to Our Nation's Budget Crisis, Medicare is Not the Problem

Jennifer Rudloff

Road Sign: ChangesYou would have to be living on a deserted island to not know that the Congress — specifically the House — and the Administration are playing chicken in the ongoing posturing over whether or not to increase the country’s debt ceiling. What makes this round of debate unique is for the first time in history, Congress has tied the debt ceiling topic to the budget process.

The positions of our elected representatives are unfailingly predictable. Republicans want to reduce taxes and spending, notably on entitlements; Democrats want to increase taxes and protect entitlement programs. In this debate, it is no surprise that Medicare [and Social Security] should be the center of the bullseye for each sides’ daily talking points. The rhetoric is hot on both sides. Unfortunately, with elections around the corner, officials are maintaining a focus on their campaigns. This can obscure facts and solutions and create barriers that keep officials from accomplishing what they were sent to DC to do. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that Medicare, per se, is not the problem. Yes it’s expensive and yes the aging of the Baby Boom Generation will add millions of new beneficiaries over the next 25 years. But the simple truth is that there IS a way to reduce Medicare cost by more than a Trillion dollars over the next decade, without reducing benefits or capping provider pay. The approach derives from this universal truth: Healthier People Cost Less. And they don’t have to be a lot healthier to save a lot of cost.

In a paper published in Population Health Management this past February, the authors demonstrate the significant dollar impact of relatively modest improvements in modifiable health risks. The Trillion dollar savings is fully 25% of the package both sides say they want to reach. Why, one must wonder, is there little or no energy in that direction?

The well-being of our country is at stake. It's time that we see less brinkmanship and more leadership in DC.

Topics: In the News Healthcare Prevention Budget Crisis Medicare Advantage Government

Well-Being and the Workplace: Is Yours Stressing or Supporting Your People?

Jennifer Rudloff

Does employee well-being affect the workplace? Most people intuitively answer yes, and we’re seeing more and more evidence to support this belief through the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index® data and other research. One recent analysis showed that employees with the lowest well-being scores cost businesses about $28,800 per person per year in lost productivity due to sick days, while those with the highest scores cost only $840. But what about examining the relationship from the opposite side? Does the workplace affect well-being? It’s an equally important question, and as it turns out, the answer is also yes—in many ways.

Commuting Stress
Let’s start with getting to and from the workplace. An analysis of WBI data found that the longer the commute, the lower the overall average well-being score. About one in five U.S. workers spend more than 30 minutes getting to work. Those who do are more likely to be obese, have high cholesterol, and experience neck or back pain. When compared to individuals who work 10 minutes or less from home, those with a one-way commute longer than 90 minutes are more than 42% more likely to report feeling worry for much of the previous day. They’re also 9% less likely to report feeling enjoyment, and 14% less likely to report feeling well rested. They also exhibit more anger, experience more stress, and eat more poorly.

Work Stress
Nearly three-quarters of Americans reported work as a significant source of stress in a 2007 report by the American Psychological Association. Another report indicated workplace stress can be linked to heart disease, apart from other health factors such as weight, smoking, or family history. People with higher self-reported levels of stress have measurably higher cortisol levels—a hormone that, if elevated over time, can lead to negative health symptoms and disease. One study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found a 30% difference in rates of heart disease between those with positive perceptions of their work environment and those with unfavorable perceptions. The study measured aspects of the work environment influenced by management, including getting criticism, praise, and information from a boss.

Reducing Stress & Boosting Well-Being
Organizations seeking to reduce workplace stress—and positively impact well-being—might consider:

  • Offering flexibility in work hours or work-at-home options to reduce commuting stress.
  • Providing management development programs that encourage positive on-the-job feedback and strengthen supervisor skills in areas like interpersonal communication

The Healthways Well-Being Assessment™, a comprehensive tool for measuring well-being within organizations, considers other influences on work environment, including:

  • An individual’s level of satisfaction with the work
  • The ability to use professional strengths on the job

Is your organization taking steps to boost well-being through a better work environment? Please share your thoughts and strategies.

Topics: Commute Well-Being Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Well-Being Index Competitive Advantage Stress Stress Management Boost Well-Being work stress

Remember the Being in Well-Being

Jennifer Rudloff

The concept of Well-Being is generally accepted to represent the confluence of physical, social and emotional health, though there is a good array of more extensive definitions.

But if we think of the two words that comprise the term – Well and Being – we might arrive at a different place. It’s easy enough to understand Well, which can be thought of as not sick, or feeling good, or even feeling great or fantastic.

The idea of Being, though, brings on a deeper exploration of meaning, quite literally in fact. Being is well known to advocates of mindfulness who emphasize areas of self-awareness and presence. Through meditation and other means of “paying attention” that focus on the here and now, we can learn to attain a greater sense of Being.

This usually leads to a feeling of inner peace, calm, relaxation – and when done with regularity, it can also have profound positive health impact.

A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed article (A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress) spoke of the clear benefits of transcendental meditation – described as 20-minute meditation twice-daily –and how it has led to some powerful results for veterans with PTSD. One recent study cited a 50% reduction in symptoms after just weeks of TM, and the article noted that there over 340 peer-reviewed papers on the beneficial effects of TM.

Within Healthways, we too, are actively examining the well-being benefits of mindfulness with Elmo Shade’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) course. Over 100 Healthways colleagues have participated in MSBR over the past year both in-person and virtually, and Elmo is currently collecting effectiveness data for future publication. We are also planning to incorporate elements of mindfulness in our Well-Being Solutions roadmap.

Sometimes viewed as a “fringe” practice for “new agers”, mindfulness is moving into the mainstream for many reasons, not the least of which is its value proposition – it doesn’t cost anything to practice it!

On a recent vacation trip to upstate New York, I enjoyed an early morning experience of gazing out at the lake while watching a YouTube clip of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the originator of the mindfulness movement, giving a talk to employees of Google. Take a look, you may find it to be an eye-opening experience…

Expect to hear more about mindfulness in the weeks and months ahead. And the next time you consider the elements of Well-Being, remember it’s not just about Being Well, it’s also about Being.

Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being Jon Kabat-Zinn Business Performance Well-Being Index Mindfulness MBSR well Being Transcendental Meditation

The Origin and Value of the Well-Being Index

Jennifer Rudloff

In my last blog I defined well-being as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social health and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” a definition consistent with the World Health Organization’s definition of health as written in 1946. I also mentioned that it was this basic definition that helped give birth to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® (WBI). Here, however, I’ll provide more information on the origin of the WBI, the value we’ve derived from it already, and the value we plan to derive well into the future.

Going back a few years, both Gallup and Healthways worked with the Center for Health Transformation, a collaboration of private and public sector leaders committed to creating a 21st century intelligent health system that saves lives and money for all Americans. Brought together by a common cause, Gallup and Healthways merged decades of behavioral research, development expertise and health leadership to lead the U.S. in its understanding of health and well-being and provide workable solutions for a healthier nation. In January 2008, we established a 25-year partnership for American health transformation.

What is the Well-Being Index? It’s the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to measure who is feeling good about life and who is in need of a helping hand. With well over a million surveys already collected, it provides a comprehensive, real-time view of Americans’ well-being, giving communities, governments, health plans and employers unmatched insight into the health and prosperity of their constituencies. The WBI draws upon data obtained from 1,000 in-depth representative surveys almost all days of each year. It’s the largest behavioral database in existence tracking life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and basic access to necessities like food and shelter. As such it is, the “pulse of America.”

Our research has shown that total well-being is complex and has many interrelated factors that impact individuals. For an accurate measure of well-being, we must take a comprehensive approach. The WBI is the first survey that takes into account all factors that affect well-being and examines how they interrelate. It measures the nation’s collective responses and provides a benchmark. Healthways has leveraged the research from the WBI to create the Healthways Well-Being Assessment™, a tool that captures the well-being of an organization at a population and an individual level. I’ll talk more about this tool in a later post.

There are many values of the data we collect, including:

  • An up-to-date view of Americans’ ongoing well-being, with insight into work environment and social, emotional and physical health
  • Exploration into how well-being impacts health and productivity in the workplace and community to design programs that have higher yield
  • Cultivation of wellness in the workplace for a more productive, healthy, present and engaged workforce
  • Application of best practices to create a work culture and programs where well-being is paramount
  • An understanding of key drivers of well-being so organizations can make informed decisions and take the most appropriate actions to improve overall health, engagement, productivity and business performance.

In addition to our work in the U.S., we recently launched a WBI in the UK and Germany. In the U.S., we now have over 1.5 million surveys completed which has continued to help us define well-being and understand what improving it means, both in terms of health impact and personal/business performance.

I’ll provide much more on our findings and the topic of well-being in the months ahead. In the meantime, I hope this helps create a foundation for the science behind our work, how we collect data, and how we turn data into value.

Let me know how this sounds to you. Does this approach make sense? Do you see any gaps? Any other ideas on how we might use the data? We really want to know!

Topics: Well-Being Well-Being Index Metrics Healthways Gallup

With Well-Being, Experience Counts: Americans 65+ are Thriving

Jennifer Rudloff

Want to reduce the sadness, stress, and worry in your lives? Listen to your elders, they seem to have the keys to improved well-being.

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® (WBI), Americans over the age of 65 consistently achieve higher well-being scores than other age groups. They’re scoring higher than their younger counterparts on a number of metrics; perhaps most notably is their emotional health. More than any other age group, Americans over the age of 65 feel they are learning or doing interesting things every day, and feel that they’re treated with respect. Additionally they experience less sadness, stress, and worry daily.

You might ask, why? Should we credit their experience and more realistic expectations? Have they more courage to follow their passions while others may be following the paycheck? Or do they simply find more joy in each day? Ben Leedle, President and CEO of Healthways talks about lessons learned from the well-being of an aging population and findings from the WBI in an article recently published in USA Today.

For a deeper dive on the Well-Being Index and related findings listen to Joy Cardin’s interview with John Harris on Wisconsin Public Radio. John talks about findings from the Well-Being Index and related demographics, discusses lessons for better living, and explains the impact well-being has on our nation.



The podcast is also available for download here.

Topics: Well-Being In the News Ben Leedle John Harris Aging Well-Being Index USA Today Healthways Keys to Well-Being Elders