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Americans' Life Ratings at 11-Month High

Americans' Life Ratings at 11-Month High

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans rated their lives better in January than in any month since March of last year, with their collective Life Evaluation Index score increasing to 50.1 from 48.4 in December. Americans' life ratings have been steadily recovering since October, when they dropped to their lowest level in more than two years (46.8).

Life Evaluation Index scores 2008-2012

Americans' life ratings, which Gallup and Healthways started tracking in January 2008, reached a new high in January 2011 (51.0), but then started steadily sinking in the summer and fall, at the same time that economic confidence tumbled and as Americans became more pessimistic about their personal finances. But, the U.S. Life Evaluation score is now almost back to its all-time high level and remains far higher than it was amid the 2008 and 2009 economic crisis.

The Life Evaluation Index, part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, classifies Americans as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering" according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. The overall Life Evaluation Index score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of suffering Americans from the percentage of thriving Americans.

The percentage of Americans who rate their lives well enough to be classified as thriving increased to 53.4% in January, up from 51.9% in December, and is the highest since May of last year.

At the same time, the percentage of Americans who are struggling declined last month to 43.3%, from 44.6% in December. The percentage suffering stayed about the same at 3.3%, compared with 3.5% in December.

thriving, struggling, and suffering in U.S. 2008-2012

Typically, more Americans are thriving than are struggling. The only period in four years of tracking when this was not the case was from October 2008 to March 2009 as the financial crisis unfolded and unemployment soared.

Life Ratings Track With Standard of Living, Economic Confidence

Americans' improving life ratings since October mirror their increasing economic confidence. In fact, Gallup's Economic Confidence Index score in January was the highest since May 2011. Similarly, the U.S. Life Evaluation Index score in January was the highest since March 2011. Additionally, Americans' improving Life Evaluation Index scores coincide with their improving standard-of-living perceptions.

Life Evaluation, Standard of Living, and Economic Confidence monthly averages

Bottom Line

Americans' life ratings are on a positive trajectory, along with growing confidence in the economy and improving perceptions of their standard of living. The Gallup-Healthways Life Evaluation Index climbed to 50.1 in January, its highest level since March of last year. The future direction of the U.S. economy in the months ahead will likely play a key role in whether Americans' life ratings improve further.

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 Jan. 1-31, 2012, with a random sample of 30,351 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

Life Evaluation Index figures from January 2008 to April 2009 reflect re-estimates calculated to address context effects that Gallup discovered after originally publishing the data.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

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.

The Life Evaluation Index is based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, which asks respondents to evaluate their present and future lives on a scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10, where "0" is the worst possible life and "10" is the best possible life. Those who rate today a "7" or higher and the future an "8" or higher are considered to be "thriving." Those who rate today and the future a "4" or lower on the scale are considered to be "suffering." The overall Life Evaluation Index score is calculated as the percentage of thriving Americans minus the percentage of suffering Americans.

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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