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Entrepreneurship Comes With Stress, But Also Optimism

Entrepreneurs are more likely to learn and do interesting things daily

by Dan Witters, Sangeeta Agrawal, and Alyssa Brown

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More stress appears to be a modest drawback of being an entrepreneur in America. In the U.S., entrepreneurs are slightly more likely than other workers to report experiencing stress a lot of the day "yesterday"-- 45% vs. 42%. They are also slightly more likely than other U.S. workers to say they worried a lot of the day "yesterday"-- 34% vs. 30%.

Worry & Stress Among Entrepreneurs and Other U.S. Workers

Importantly, the slight differences between entrepreneurs and other U.S. workers in daily emotions hold true even after controlling for age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, income, education, marital status, and weekly hours worked. This means that these demographic factors alone don't account for entrepreneurs' emotional health dividend; rather, there is something else about being an entrepreneur that relates to having more stress and worry.

These findings are based on more than 273,175 interviews conducted Jan. 2, 2011-Sept. 30, 2012, with American adults as a part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Gallup classified 6,896 of these respondents as entrepreneurs based on their self-identification as both "self-employed" and as a "business owner." The large sample sizes involved mean that smaller differences on well-being items are statistically significant.

Entrepreneurs More Likely to Feed Their Intellectual Curiosity

Entrepreneurs are more likely than other workers to report learning or doing something interesting "yesterday"-- 71% vs. 66%.

Entrepreneurs are also slightly more likely to report experiencing enjoyment a lot of the day "yesterday" (89% vs. 86%), which may be, in part, due to their greater propensity to learn and do interesting activities on a daily basis.

Enjoyment and Learned Something Interesting Among Entrepreneurs and Other U.S. workers

Entrepreneurs Possess More Optimism About Their Future

Entrepreneurs express more optimism about their future than other employed adults. When asked to place their lives on an imaginary ladder where the top rung represents their "best possible life" in five years, 30% of entrepreneurs place themselves on the top rung -- this compares with 25% of other workers.

Future Life Optimism Among Entrepreneurs and Other U.S. Workers


Although the differences are not large, entrepreneurs are slightly more likely than other workers to report experiencing stress and worry -- even after controlling for demographic correlates associated with being an entrepreneur. One possible explanation for these differences may be that the personal and financial risks involved in starting and running a business may lead to additional worry and stress. For example, entrepreneurs are significantly more likely than other workers to be uninsured and to struggle to afford necessary healthcare and medicine, which may cause them to have higher levels of stress and worry.

At the same time, entrepreneurs are slightly more likely than other employed adults to report experiencing enjoyment and learning and doing something interesting each day. The same intellectual curiosity and energy needed to start and run a business may also drive entrepreneurs to seek out and take advantage of opportunities to learn or do something interesting or exciting on a regular basis. Entrepreneurs also have creative and strategic control of their business and manage their own schedule to execute on their business plan. Thus, they may have more flexibility to pursue interesting and exciting learning opportunities and activities than other workers.

Despite experiencing more stress and worry than other workers, entrepreneurs are still more optimistic about their future. This elevated optimism, combined with communities that foster an entrepreneurial culture, may lead entrepreneurs to take business risks, create jobs, launch new products, and innovate.

To find out how leaders can best support the health and well-being of entrepreneurs, read "Attracting Entrepreneurs to Your City" in the Gallup Business Journal.

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. 2, 2011-Sept. 30, 2012, with a random sample of more than 273,175 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Of these, 6,896 were defined as entrepreneurs.

For results based on the total sample of entrepreneurs, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1.4 percentage points.

For results based on the total sample of employed non-entrepreneurs, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±0.2 percentage points.

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 cellphone 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. Cellphone 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 (cellphone-only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 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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