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Iraqis' Views of Their Health Worst in MENA

Iraqis' Views of Their Health Worst in MENA

by Bryant Ott

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Iraqis by far have the worst perceptions of their health in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to their scores on Gallup's Physical Well-Being Index in 2011. Iraq's score of 47 on the index -- which is based on five questions about physical and emotional health -- is nearly half as high as scores in United Arab Emirates (80) and Kuwait (80).

Physical wellbeing Index scores in MENA

Gallup's Physical Well-Being Index offers an ongoing, consistent measurement of people's perceptions of their own health status. The index is a mean score based on the percentages of respondents who said they did not have health problems that prevent them from doing things people their age can normally do and those who felt well-rested and did not experience physical pain, worry, or sadness the day before the survey.

Iraq's 2011 score of 47 was the lowest it has been since Gallup began calculating the index in 2008 and is down from a high score of 60 in early 2009. Fewer Iraqis report not experiencing pain, worry, and sadness and fewer say they feel well-rested, pulling down the nation's mean score.

Forty-two percent of Iraqis in 2011 said they did not experience pain, down sharply from 61% in 2009.

Physical pain among Iraqi adults

Slightly more than one in three Iraqis said they did not experience worry a lot of the previous day in late 2011, the lowest level Gallup has measured thus far in the country.

Worry among Iraqi adults

Four in 10 Iraqis in 2011 said they felt well-rested the previous day, the lowest percentage to say so since Gallup began tracking this question in 2008. And Iraqis were less likely than they have ever been during that time to say they did not feel sad (49%).

Feeling well-rested among Iraqi adults

Other countries and areas in the region that have seen recent instability and conflict, including Egypt, Bahrain, and the Palestinian Territories, had some of the lower scores on the index in 2011. But respondents in each of these countries and areas provided more positive responses than Iraqis for each of the individual questions that make up the index.

physical wellbeing among lower scoring MENA countries and regions

Physical Well-Being Index Scores Highest Among MENA's Wealthier, More Stable Nations

Physical Well-Being Index scores were highest in the region's wealthier and relatively more stable countries such as the UAE, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Strong majorities of respondents in each of the highest scoring nations said they did not experience a lot of physical pain, worry, and sadness the previous day.

physical wellbeing among higher scoring MENA countries and areas

Bottom Line

Unlike traditional measures of a country's overall health status, which usually include statistics such as life expectancy, infant mortality, and disease infection rates, the Physical Well-Being Index provides insights into residents' perceptions of their own health. As such, they may reflect some intrinsic optimism among respondents beyond what traditional measures indicate.

For example, chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity are on the rise in many countries in the region, even those nations with consistently high percentages of respondents saying they do not have health problems that prevent them from normal activities. Any disconnect between poor public health statistics and relatively positive self-assessments of personal health provide leaders in the region a two-fold challenge: trying to improve their country's key healthy indicators while properly educating people about public health and well-being issues.

Still, people's perceptions of their own health are as important as more traditional health statistics. Individuals with high Physical Well-Being Index scores are more optimistic about the future, and in terms of their overall well-being, are less likely to be suffering. And it is also important to note that Gallup research finds that individual physical well-being relates to some of those more traditional measures, including health expenditures per capita and death rates.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2011 in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±3.4 percentage points to a high of ±3.9 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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.

The Physical Well-Being Index is an aggregation of five individual questions:

  • Do you have any health problems that prevent you from doing any of the things people your age normally can do?
  • Now, please think about yesterday, from the morning until the end of the day. Think about where you were, what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt. Did you feel well-rested yesterday?
  • Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about physical pain?
  • Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about worry?
  • Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about sadness?

A positive answer to each question is coded "1" and all other responses as "0." If a record has no answer for an item, then that item is not eligible for inclusion in the calculations. An individual record has an index calculated if it has valid scores for at least four questions for an individual index to be calculated. A record's final index score is the mean of valid items multiplied by 100. The final country-level index score is the mean of all individual records for which an index score was calculated.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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