The Well-Being Journal

Improving Well-Being in a Challenging Population

Madison Agee

When you think of the type of organization that implements a well-being improvement program in its workforce population, what comes to mind? If you’re like many people, you’re probably imagining a professional services organization with a predominantly white-collar workforce — the type of environment where employees usually have good healthcare coverage and long employment tenures.

It’s no different when it comes to the scientific literature that has looked at the outcomes of programs such as workplace wellness and employee well-being improvement. Studies have historically focused on professional, white-collar environments, essentially ignoring industries such as retail and warehousing where workers are typically more blue-collar. Thus, the recent publication of a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) provides a much-needed and unique contribution to the scientific body, as it examines the outcomes of a well-being intervention program among a mostly blue-collar employee population.

The study, “Well-being, Health and Productivity After an Employee Well-being Intervention in Large Retail Distribution Centers” was authored by the Healthways Center for Health Research and reveals the positive outcomes that occurred following a Healthways-driven well-being intervention at a large retail employer. Supporting what is perhaps a common assumption regarding blue-collar workers, the participants in this study, on average, faced significantly more challenges than individuals in the surrounding community. These challenges included lower overall well-being scores, physical health, healthy behaviors, basic access and ability to afford food.

Despite these pre-intervention challenges, the employees in the study achieved measurable improvements in overall well-being scores, biometric measurements and workplace productivity over a six-month period. For example, overall well-being improved by nearly 2.5 points, while healthy behaviors improved 12.1 percent. Additionally, total cholesterol dropped an average of 10.8 points, and on-the-job productivity improved by 18.8 percent.

In addition to being traditionally associated with white-collar environments, workplace wellness and well-being intervention programs are often expected to require significant time to produce successful outcomes. Therefore, employers in industries in which high turnover among workers is common (such as retail) may be reluctant to implement programs that are perceived as long-term investments in their workforce. This study shows, however, that after only six months of intervention, participants realized noticeable improvement in all three categories of metrics in the study: well-being scores, biometric measurements and on-the-job productivity.

This may be especially appealing given the significant improvement in productivity that was seen during this study —results similar to the 18.8 percent improvement seen in the study over just a six-month period could be incredibly important in many workplaces. 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 Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Productivity Science and Research

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