The Well-Being Journal

Creating a Catalyst for Worldwide Change

Madison Agee

By: Ben R. Leedle Jr., President and CEO, Healthways

Ben Leedle Healthways President and CEO Ben Leedle

Almost seven years ago, we started on a journey with Gallup — a journey to measure well-being and explore the dimensions of a life well-lived. Our goal was to understand what is important to people, how we experience our day-to-day lives, and what we think our lives will be like in the future. We wanted to determine what distinguishes a thriving life from one spent suffering, to broaden the perspective that health is more than just physical. And we sought to understand how this more holistic definition of well-being could influence outcomes that are crucial to societies.

Through decades of research and with the help of many leading experts, we’ve been able to scientifically determine the elements of well-being that are the most predictive and actionable. These include our sense of purpose, our relationships, our financial security, our connection to our communities and our physical health. By thinking of well-being in this broader way, we can better understand the conditions affecting any population and, from there, develop targeted interventions that make a meaningful difference.

We’ve shown that even modest improvements in well-being can substantially lower healthcare costs and increase worker productivity within organizations. We’ve proven that scalable change can be realized across communities.

So where are we on our journey?

We continue to advance the science of well-being with Gallup to measure and study the well-being of populations globally. Together, we’ve amassed the world’s largest data set on well-being with more than 2 million surveys of U.S. adults. We’ve extended our reach around the world to create a “golden thread” of well-being information across 135 countries.

We now have a truly global picture of well-being. We can measure the elements that make up well-being, compare the relationships between well-being and other population metrics, and gauge the impact of well-being improvement initiatives in almost any country in the world. Our finding that only 17 percent of the world’s population is thriving in three elements or more tells us there’s much work to be done globally to improve well-being. This work includes promoting sustainable lifestyle changes and making environmental changes to develop communities that encourage high well-being.

We hope you’ll join us on this journey. It’s a journey that fosters thinking beyond traditional metrics that broadens our perspectives to include the essential elements that impact our daily lives. It’s a journey that connects well-being to any population that’s front-and-center for you — be it your employees, your community, your country, or, just as importantly, yourself and your family.

Measuring and understanding well-being matters to the employers that want to improve workforce performance, to the non-profits and international organizations that want to see positive outcomes in their development work, and to the governments that want to strengthen their communities. And it matters to all of us, as individuals who want to live better.


Download the Global Well-Being Index Report

Topics: Well-Being In the News Well-Being Index Gallup Health Conditions Science and Research Health Status

New Study Reveals a Better, More Comprehensive Way to Measure Well-Being

Madison Agee

Improving well-being can create a vast range of positive outcomes, such as better quality of life, increased longevity, greater on-the-job productivity and lower healthcare costs. Research has shown that overall well-being is a stronger predictor of health and performance outcomes over time than factors such as people’s demographic characteristics, the amount of healthcare they’ve used, and their behavioral and physical health risks alone.* According to Jim Clifton, Gallup chairman and chief executive officer, “The most important dial on any leader’s dashboard for the next 20 years will be well-being”.

If your organization understands that well-being is an important aspect of its success, step one in putting this knowledge to work, then, is to establish a baseline measure of well-being. This will enable you to determine the effectiveness of any programs you put in place to improve well-being. Sounds easy, right?

It’s actually a highly complex endeavor. Health risk assessments abound in the market, but well-being is much more than physical health. Therefore, measurement tools need to capture information about all five of the interrelated elements of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

A recent study published by Population Health Management details the development and ultimate success of such a tool, known as the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being 5. The study, co-authored by researchers at the Healthways Center for Health Research, Gallup and Pro-Change Behavior Systems, shows that the Well-Being 5 comprehensively measures, reports and tracks well-being at individual, local, national and global levels.

The Well-Being 5 is based on decades of scientific research by Gallup and Healthways. Experts evaluated hundreds of well-being questions and millions of responses to determine specific question and response wording and question order. The final set of questions in the Well-Being 5 was chosen based on its power to identify risk, comprehensively capture well-being, and predict outcomes with optimal validity, accuracy and precision. The survey experience is designed to maximize both engagement and action, applying principles that include:

  • Making the best choice the easy choice
  • Suggesting direct action
  • Moving the individual through the experience in increments that allow for learning
  • Providing feedback on what is most valuable to that individual

The new study concludes that the Well-Being 5 “comprehensively captures the known constructs within well-being, is reliable and valid, significantly relates to health and performance outcomes, can be diagnostic and informative for intervention, and can be used to track and compare well-being over time and across groups. Using the Well-Being 5 instrument, well-being issues within a population can be effectively identified, prioritized and addressed, yielding substantial improvements to the health status, performance, functioning, and quality of life for individuals.”

As more organizations look to well-being improvement to help them reduce healthcare costs and improve performance, a reliable and validated tool such as the Well-Being 5 can help. Learn more about the Well-Being 5.

* This sentence was edited on August 28, 2014 to include the word "alone."

Topics: Well-Being In the News Science and Research

Infographic: More Americans Now Have Health Insurance, New Gallup Data Shows

Madison Agee

New data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® demonstrates that, despite the many hiccups associated with rolling out provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the healthcare law has led to a tremendous shift in health insurance coverage. In the third quarter of 2013, 18 percent of Americans were without health insurance; by the first quarter of 2014, that number was down to 13.5 percent, its lowest point in years.

Check out our newest infographic, which reveals some fascinating insights from Gallup-Healthways research, including which states are seeing the greatest percentage of their residents without insurance as well as how health insurance coverage affects well-being.

For a deep dive into the data, Dan Witters, research director at Gallup, extensively discussed trends associated with health insurance data in a Healthways-sponsored webinar last month.

To learn more about the Well-Being Index, visit http://info.healthways.com/wbi2013.

The ACA's Impact on Health Insurance Coverage Nationally, Regionally and Individually

 

Topics: In the News Healthcare Gallup ACA

Which Has a Greater Impact on Employee Productivity: Well-Being or Chronic Disease?

Madison Agee

Having a chronic condition no doubt has an impact on your productivity at work. Employers are well aware of this fact, and typically structure their wellness programs to focus on improving their employees’ physical health to prevent productivity loss. This approach is understandable, given that the existing body of scientific literature supports the idea that physical health (such as the presence or absence of chronic illnesses) is the primary contributor to worker productivity.

However, findings from a new study recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has called this commonly held belief into question. The study showed that employees’ well-being is actually a more important contributor to on-the-job productivity than their chronic disease status. The study, “Comparing the Contributions of Well-Being and Disease Status to Employee Productivity,” is the first to challenge the common belief that physical health is the primary contributor to employee productivity levels. It’s also the first study to specifically show that well-being improvement can increase productivity in both healthy populations and those with disease.

Well-being is a more complex and holistic measure. Well-being considers not only the important role of physical health but also a person’s sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security and community attachment.

“As individuals, we intuitively know that we are not at our best when we are stressed about anything that is important to our well-being,” said James E. Pope M.D., chief science officer at Healthways and coauthor of the article. “What this research has shown is how these elements of well-being interact to drive decreased productivity. Equally exciting is the discovery that programs designed to help improve the overall well-being can improve the productivity of both healthy and chronically ill individuals alike.

“Measuring employee well-being and understanding the unique aspects of their populations will help employers achieve more successful outcomes with their programs. Higher well-being manifests in greater degrees of creativity, innovation and employee engagement, all of which can improve value for employers by shifting the focus from productivity loss to productivity gain.”

The two-year survey tracked the well-being of more than 2,600 employees at three different companies. Researchers divided the employees into two groups: those that had no chronic conditions and those with diabetes (these individuals may have had other health conditions). Diabetes was selected as the focus chronic condition due to its prevalence and demonstrated impact on productivity.

The study showed that employees with higher well-being demonstrated greater workplace productivity, regardless of whether they suffered from chronic conditions. In addition, well-being was more important than chronic disease or demographic factors in defining how productive a person would be in any given year. Over time, changes in well-being contributed significantly to shifts in productivity beyond what could be explained by any individual characteristic, such as disease status, age, gender or socioeconomic status.

To read more about improving on-the-job productivity, download a copy of Healthways’ eBook 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Improving Productivity in the Workplace.

Topics: Well-Being In the News Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Competitive Advantage Productivity Health Conditions Science and Research Health Status