The Well-Being Journal

Quantifying Well-Being: A Big Idea for 2016

Cameron Bowman

In his contribution to LinkedIn’s #BigIdeas2016 series, Deepak Chopra, world renowned author and speaker, shared his view on the increased importance of well-being transparency and assessment as we move further into an age where health can be quantified and bolstered by technology.

For some, well-being may be an ambiguous concept that holds little importance to the material world. However, through research conducted by Gallup and Healthways, well-being is no longer a misunderstood idea nor an intangible notion - it can be definitively measured and interpreted.

Since 2008, Gallup and Healthways have partnered to understand the well-being of both individuals and populations. Together, we measure and study well-being so we can act efficiently and effectively to improve it. We have made it easier for business leaders and government officials to make informed decisions by helping them understand and quantify well-being through two key initiatives.

The first, a scientific survey instrument and reporting experience called the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being 5™, is used to give each participant a “single number that informs you of your total state of wellbeing,” as Dr. Chopra says of the ideal quantification, “evaluating not just the body's vital signs but the mind-body connection as well.” It measures the five interrelated elements that research has shown to have the greatest impact on an individual’s well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. Insights gained through this assessment help individuals take the first steps on their journey to living better.

Our second initiative, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, takes the concept of quantifying well-being at an individual level and expands it to include communities, states and nations. The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index uses self-reported data from individuals across the planet to create a unique view of global states of mind and societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being. Globally, higher well-being has been associated with outcomes indicative of stability and resilience — for example, healthcare utilization, intent to migrate, trust in elections and local institutions, lowered daily stress, food/shelter security, volunteerism, and willingness to help others. Understanding these relationships allows world leaders insight into their populations that might not be otherwise transparent.

In his post, Dr. Chopra states “in short, wellness is about to become much more transparent as technology quantifies all the factors that contribute to wellbeing.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Topics: Well-Being Index Gallup

Well-Being Enhances Benefits of Employee Engagement


This article originally appeared in the Gallup Business Journal and is reposted with the permission of Gallup.

Story Highlights

  • Engagement and well-being are keys to employee performance
  • Just 32% of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs
  • Leaders can make a substantial difference in employee well-being

Two major factors influence employee performance, Gallup has found: engagement and well-being. Gallup measures engagement for employees through the Q12 survey, which consists of 12 actionable items with proven links to performance outcomes. And with Healthways, we measure well-being through five elements that are crucial to a life well-lived.

Now, many organizations measure and evaluate their employees' engagement, while others focus on improving their workers' well-being. But what happens when companies try to improve both? Does strong well-being take a highly engaged workforce and make it even better? And how can each one be applied to enhance the other?

If High Engagement and Well-Being: % Fewer Missed Workdays

Defining Engagement and Well-Being

Based on employees' responses to the Q12 items, Gallup groups workers into one of three categories: engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged. Just 32% of U.S. workers are engaged in their jobs, setting them apart from other workers in terms of their attendance, performance, service quality, safety and likelihood to stay with their current company, among other factors.

Similarly, Gallup and Healthways have developed a comprehensive, research-based definition of well-being that encompasses five interrelated and essential elements: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. Together, these elements provide key insights into individuals' sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship to their community and physical health.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

Respondents can be classified as thriving, struggling and suffering in each element according to how they rate that particular facet of well-being in their lives:

  • Thriving: well-being that is strong, consistent and progressing in a particular element
  • Struggling: well-being that is moderate or inconsistent in a particular element
  • Suffering: well-being that is low and at high risk in a particular element

In the U.S., 28% of adults aged 18 and older are not thriving in any element, while just 19% are thriving in at least four of the five. For every two U.S. adults who are exhibiting high levels of well-being across most or all elements, there are three who have significant room for improvement across them all.

The Benefits of Adding High Well-Being to High Engagement

The question researchers have explored is: How do employees who are engaged and who exhibit high well-being in at least four of the five elements fare compared with engaged workers who have high well-being in only three or fewer elements? Does adding high well-being to high engagement have a beneficial effect on key outcomes?

Compared with employees who have high engagement but otherwise exhibit low levels of well-being, those who are engaged and who have high well-being in at least four of the five elements are 30% more likely not to miss any workdays because of poor health in any given month. They also miss 70% fewer workdays because of poor health over the course of a year. In addition, employees who are engaged and have high well-being are:

  • 42% more likely to evaluate their overall lives highly
  • 27% more likely to report "excellent" performance in their own job at work
  • 27% more likely to report "excellent" performance by their organization
  • 45% more likely to report high levels of adaptability in the presence of change
  • 37% more likely to report always recovering "fully" after illness, injury or hardship
  • 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months
  • 18% less likely to change employers in a 12-month period
  • 19% more likely to volunteer their time in the past month

How Leaders Can Add Well-Being to Their Engagement Programs

Leaders can make a substantial difference in their employees' lives by including well-being principles in their company's engagement programs, thus effecting change in both areas at the same time. These five strategies can be deployed right now to increase employee engagement and well-being:

  • Strongly encourage participation in well-being activities when setting job expectations. Let employees choose the well-being activities that are best suited to them based on their individual well-being goals. This approach simultaneously promotes clarity about an employee's role and a culture of well-being, and it does both while honoring each employee's unique talents and interests.
  • Recognize employees for their well-being achievements. Recognition reinforces what is valued within an organizational culture. One reason recognition is such a strong driver of employee engagement is that if employees feel they will be recognized for doing great work, they will be highly motivated to do so. The same principle applies to enhancing well-being. Increase recognition to increase effort -- and improve well-being and engagement at the same time.
  • Explicitly link each well-being activity to at least one of the five elements. The five elements of well-being add depth and dimension to "feeling cared about," a key component of engagement. The five elements can help managers more clearly individualize activities to each employee's situation through discussion and by creating a more focused set of goals. Leaders and managers should communicate that the five elements are important organizational values and show how each well-being program links to one or more of the elements. Communication that emphasizes that leadership cares about employees' -- and their families' -- well-being can go a long way in encouraging employee engagement and employee participation in well-being programs.
  • Solicit employee ideas and incorporate them into workplace well-being initiatives. "Opinions count" is a central component of an engaging workplace. Asking employees to contribute well-being ideas is a great way to galvanize them and make them feel they are a part of the well-being movement. Employees also will have excellent feedback about which well-being programs are working and which aren't -- and how they can be revised or new programs added.
  • Include well-being goal-setting and milestones in work review and progress meetings. Research has shown that engaged employees are much more comfortable than other employees in discussing their well-being goals with their manager. But the five well-being elements can be incorporated into progress-review conversations in ways that encourage employees to pursue their well-being goals and that can deepen the manager-employee relationship. One way to start this conversation is for a manager to ask, "Is there an aspect of your well-being that I can support?"

Ultimately, organizations can benefit substantially by adding well-being to their engagement programs. By ignoring well-being, or by focusing on physical wellness programs alone, employers miss important opportunities to improve employee performance.

Survey Methods

Results are based on a Gallup Panel Web study completed by 24,230 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 8-Nov. 13, 2014, and a Gallup Panel Web study completed by 24,658 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 2, 2014-Jan. 14, 2015. A subsample of 9,689 working adults, obtained after matching the above two surveys, was used for this analysis. The Gallup Panel is a probability-based longitudinal panel of U.S. adults who are selected using random-digit-dial (RDD) phone interviews that cover landline and cellphones. Address-based sampling methods are also used to recruit panel members. The Gallup Panel is not an opt-in panel, and members are not given incentives for participating. The sample for this study was weighted to be demographically representative of the U.S. adult population using 2014 Current Population Survey figures. For results based on this sample, one can say that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Margins of error are higher for subsamples. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error and bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Topics: Well-Being Engagement Gallup

New Report Measures the Well-Being of the Nation’s Most Populous Communities

Madison Agee

Community Rankings from Gallup-Healthways Well-Being IndexA new report from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® ranks the 100 largest communities in the United States by their comparative well-being. North-Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, has the nation’s highest well-being, followed by Urban Honolulu, Hawaii; Raleigh, North Carolina; Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California; and El Paso, Texas. El Paso also leads the nation in purpose and physical well-being.

Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio- Pennsylvania, has the lowest overall well-being in the country, as well as the lowest purpose and social well-being. The four communities rounding out the bottom five in terms of overall well-being are Toledo, Ohio; Knoxville, Tennessee; Dayton, Ohio; and Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana. The state of Ohio has five communities among the ten ranked for lowest overall well-being.

“State of American Well-Being: 2014 Community Well-Being Rankings” examines the comparative well-being of the largest 100 communities in the United States. You can read more about the rankings here and download all the reports here.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals across the globe to create a unique view of societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. It is the most proven, mature and comprehensive measure of well-being in populations. Previous Gallup and Healthways research shows that high well-being closely relates to key health outcomes such as lower rates of healthcare utilization, lower workplace absenteeism and better workplace performance, change in obesity status and new onset disease burden.

To discover where other communities — including yours — fall within the rankings, download a copy of the report today. You can also subscribe to content from the Well-Being Index; by subscribing, we’ll let you know when we release new reports and insights from the Well-Being Index.

Topics: Well-Being In the News Well-Being Index Gallup

Well-Being Improvement:
The Path to Population Health

Madison Agee

At the 15th Population Health Colloquium in March in Philadelphia, PA, innovators across the health care industry gathered to discuss building a culture of health and examine real world examples of population based care being implemented by leading companies and organizations. Participants discussed the value of having a scientifically validated measurement of well-being in order to enable public- and private-sector leaders to know where they stand and how best to develop and prioritize strategies that help their populations live their best lives. All attendees received a copy of the ‘‘Best of Population Health Management’’ supplement, which compiled the most requested articles of 2014. The introduction to that supplement was authored by Ben R. Leedle Jr., President and CEO of Healthways, and appears in its entirety below. It is reprinted with permission of Population Health Management.


Introduction by: Ben R. Leedle Jr., former President and CEO, Healthways

Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”

— H. James Harrington, Ph.D., performance improvement expert

The United States is facing an unprecedented health crisis. Rising costs, declining quality of life, lost productivity, stress, care provider shortages and an aging population continue to place a heavy burden on the American economy, on the vitality of our communities, on the viability of our enterprises and on individuals in need of both health improvement and services to optimize their care. How do we effectively, sustainably reverse these trends?

Our industry has been grappling with this question for some time now, a question that propels us to bring our research to increasingly more rigorous levels, to collect richer data from myriad perspectives, to continuously refine metrics of value and to innovate at a faster pace than ever before. Where we collaborate on these endeavors, the best results ensue.

On January 2, 2008, Healthways began a journey with Gallup to define and measure well-being. Our goal was to understand what is fundamentally important to people, how we experience our day-to-day lives, how we make thousands of decisions every day, and what we think our lives will be like in the future. This information would help us look beyond just physical health and more fully explore its multifaceted nature, including what causes our behaviors and habits to move in positive or negative directions.

The concept of health encompassing more than overt physical symptoms or disease was nothing new, but organizations like ours that deliver population health interventions largely had physical health data — primarily retrospective effect data — to direct our efforts. Without a deeper understanding of what distinguishes a thriving life from one spent suffering, we realized, those interventions would fall short of our three aims: to keep healthy people healthy, to reduce or eliminate lifestyle risks, and to optimize care for those with known conditions or chronic disease. In other words, we needed to uncover and address other aspects of life that either reinforce or work against our best intentions — we needed real-time root cause data.

Decades of clinical and behavioral economics research as well as experience delivering interventions aimed at positively changing behaviors formed the foundation of what eventually became the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, an in-depth, real-time view of how individuals, organizations, communities, states and countries perceive their well-being. Why are perceptions valuable? Measures such as unemployment, GDP and health statistics are essential, but they do little to help us understand why people change or do not change. Without that information, determining how best to support the improvement of their health and well-being is impossible.

Since 2008, we have fielded millions of well-being surveys around the world. This accumulated data has enabled research indicating us that improving well-being is the best — indeed, the only way — to positively influence populations, and to sustain positive change. When we have a strong sense of purpose, supportive relationships, financial confidence, and strong connections to our community in addition to good physical health, we truly thrive. Scientifically proven and published in the pages of Population Health Management as well as other peer-reviewed journals, this fact is also basic common sense.

Having a scientifically validated measurement of well-being enables public- and private-sector leaders to know where they stand and how best to develop and prioritize strategies that help their populations live their best lives. As David B. Nash, MD, MBA, Dean of the Jefferson School of Population Health, noted recently, “Researchers, policy makers and healthcare leaders need good information about the well-being of populations that they serve. Well-being sheds light on the issues that drive quality, cost and productivity. A well-being metric also supports the creation of an action plan for our nation, in order to achieve sustained improvement in the health of our citizens.” Well-being measurement affords diagnostic, design, process and value outcome specificity and clarity. Perhaps most importantly in terms of creating the change we all want, such measurement ensures the accountability of leadership.

Population health is important work for us all. In fact, our recent analysis of global well-being revealed that only 17% of the world’s population is thriving in 3 elements of well-being or more[1]. This tells us much work remains to be done to improve well-being and population health around the globe. Insights and best practice for improving well-being are universal — applying to all humans — and transcend the traditional boundaries for understanding health that are often ascribed to a population’s education, demographics, location and economy.

Encouragingly, population health is getting the recognition it deserves as a strategic competence for healthcare and other organizations. As just one example, businesses are now hiring chief population officers. The need for the expertise, evidence and next-generation of leadership underscores the importance of the work being performed at the Jefferson School of Population Health. Another example of dynamic growth in the field is the new partnership formed between the Jefferson School of Population Health and the Population Health Alliance. The relationship blends the best of each group and assures the development and execution of innovative solution in our field.

Healthways is proud to support these organizations and sponsor this inaugural “Best of Population Health Management” supplement, which compiles the most requested articles of 2014. Clearly, the rising incidence of chronic disease both in the United States and throughout the world shows that we are ready for a new approach, and these articles highlight some of the exciting advancement in our collective study. Together, we are learning from those on the front lines of population health practice and discovery, collaborating with greater transparency than ever before, and establishing the best practices in total population health that will truly transform health and care.

[1] As defined by Gallup and Healthways, the five elements of well-being are: 1) purpose (liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals), 2) social (having supportive relationships and love in your life), 3) financial (managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security), 4) community (liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community), and 5) physical (having good health and enough energy to get things done daily).

Topics: Well-Being Well-Being Index Gallup Science and Research