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Gallup's Top 10 U.S. Well-Being Discoveries in 2011

Gallup's Top 10 U.S. Well-Being Discoveries in 2011

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup in 2011 published nearly 100 unique articles about Americans' health and well-being. Through its daily surveys, conducted year-round, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uncovers new insights into and provides the most up-to-date data available on Americans' mental state, exercise and eating habits, healthcare coverage, physical health, and financial well-being. The following list comprises Gallup editors' picks for the top 10 most compelling findings from this year.

  1. Lengthy, cumbersome job searches lower well-being: The longer Americans are unemployed, the more job applications they fill out, and the more job interviews they go on, the worse their well-being becomes. Unemployed Americans who have been out of work for 11 weeks or more are significantly less likely to be thriving and more likely to experiences worry, stress, sadness, and anger.
  2. Americans' weight problem subsides slightly: For the first time in more than three years, more Americans are a normal weight than are overweight, according to Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data from the third quarter of 2011. The obesity rate also decreased in 2011, but just slightly.
  3. More young adults get health insurance: The percentage of Americans aged 18 to 25 who were uninsured declined in 2011, coincident with the implementation of the provision in the new healthcare law that allows adults to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26.
  4. Colorado still the skinniest state: Residents of Colorado are the least likely in the nation to be obese, as they have been in past years. The obesity rate in that state is 20.1%, which stands in stark contrast to the 34.3% in West Virginia, the highest in the country.
  5. Fewer Americans can afford food: The percentage of Americans reporting that they have enough money to buy the food they or their families declined in 2011, nearing a level not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.
  6. Employer-based health insurance on the decline: Fewer Americans are getting their health insurance from an employer, with the percentage falling to 44.5% in third quarter of 2011, down from 49.8% in the first quarter of 2008.
  7. "Suffering" in the United States holds steady: Four percent of Americans rate their lives poorly enough to be considered "suffering" -- this figure has remained essentially the same for the past two years. Low-income Americans continue to be much more likely than those who are better off to be suffering.
  8. Many Americans act as caregivers: More than one in six American workers also provide care to an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend. Middle-aged, black, and Hispanic Americans are among the most likely to be caregivers.
  9. Unhealthy workers carry $153 billion price tag: American workers who are overweight or obese and have other health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure miss an estimated 450 million additional days of work annually compared with those who are healthy. This results in a cost of more than $153 billion in lost productivity per year.
  10. Bad job more harmful to well-being than no job: Workers who are "actively disengaged" -- meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace -- rate their lives worse than even those who are unemployed. Forty-two percent of actively disengaged workers are thriving in their lives, compared with 48% of those who are unemployed.

Read all of our 2011 well-being discoveries.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks well-being in the U.S., U.K., and Germany and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey each day, with a random sample of at least 1,000 adults, or roughly 30,000 adults per month, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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