Since 2008, Gallup and Healthways have measured the well-being of Americans and determined how best to improve well-being and its relationship to important outcomes. Building on these insights, Gallup and Healthways expanded our well-being research to assess and improve well-being globally.
After conducting more than 133,000 interviews in 135 countries and areas in 2013, we published the results this week in a new report, the State of Global Well-Being. The report categorizes countries as thriving, struggling, or suffering for each of the five elements of well-being (purpose, social, financial, community, and physical) based on individual's responses.
Measurements of national performance typically focus on income -- for example, GDP and its components. Although income is certainly important, it's not the only thing that matters. People can have a high income and low well-being, and conversely earn a low income and have high well-being. Leaders can use well-being data to form a more complete picture of how their citizens are doing.
Research by Gallup and Healthways has shown that higher well-being is correlated with higher productivity, political stability, personal resilience, and lower healthcare costs. These findings provide actionable insights to enable world leaders and policymakers to identify specific barriers to and gaps in well-being, and then develop informed strategies to help organizations and communities within their countries thrive and grow.
Here are some key findings from the report:
- Globally, only 17% of the world's population is thriving in three or more elements.
- A country's GDP or other absolute economic indicators do not always directly tie to its citizenry's overall perceptions of well-being or to the country's level of well-being in each element.
- Some of the lowest reported levels of well-being are not surprisingly found in war zones. However, we also find low well-being in places where security is high and society is stable -- for example, Italy.
- Of all the regions, the Americas have the highest levels of well-being, with all elements outperforming the global percentages.
- Europe outpaced global percentages in all but physical well-being (24% global vs. 22% Europe).
- Panama had the highest well-being of all countries, as measured by the percentage of the population that was thriving in three elements or more. Additionally, this country led the globe in thriving rates in four of the five well-being elements (purpose, social, community, and physical).
- Syria had the lowest well-being globally, with less than 1% of its population thriving in three or more elements.