The Well-Being Journal

Understanding Well-Being in Europe, Region of Strong Contrasts

Madison Agee

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.

Topics: Well-Being Well-Being Index Gallup

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

Madison Agee

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.

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

Jobs Climate Related to Well-Being Worldwide

Madison Agee

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.

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

World Faces Shortage in Purpose Well-Being

Madison Agee

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.

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