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Gallup's Top 10 U.S. Well-Being Discoveries in 2013

Gallup's Top 10 U.S. Well-Being Discoveries in 2013

by Alyssa Davis

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup published nearly 100 unique articles in 2013 about Americans' health and well-being. Through its daily surveys, conducted year-round, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uncovers new insights 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 represents Gallup editors' picks for the top 10 most important findings from this year.

  1. Lacking employment is most linked to having depression: For Americans, being unemployed, being out of the workforce, or working part time -- but wanting full-time work -- are the strongest predictors of having depression. Gallup found that these relationships hold true even after controlling for age, gender, income, education, race and ethnicity, marital status, having children, region, obesity, having health insurance, and being a caregiver. Bonus finding: Depression costs U.S. employers $23 billion in absenteeism each year.
  2. Obesity is a growing problem for Americans: The adult obesity rate has been trending upward in 2013 will likely surpass rates since 2008, when Gallup and Healthways began tracking. The obesity rate has increased across almost all demographic groups.
  3. Those who are actively disengaged at work are more likely to smoke: Eighteen percent of actively disengaged workers -- those who are emotionally disconnected from their jobs -- light up vs. 15% of other workers. Bonus finding: Workers who smoke cost the U.S. economy $278 billion annually.
  4. Female veterans have a more optimistic life outlook: Female veterans of the U.S. military have a much more optimistic outlook on their lives than their male counterparts do. Female veterans' future life ratings are similar to those of women in the general U.S. population, but male veterans' ratings trail behind other men's ratings.
  5. Heart attacks hit women harder, emotionally speaking: American women who say they have had a heart attack at some point in their lives have an average Emotional Health Index score that is eight points lower than the average score among women who have not had a heart attack. In comparison, the average Emotional Health Index score among men who have had a heart attack is four points lower than it is among men who have not.
  6. Depression rate drops in areas hardest hit by Sandy: One year after Superstorm Sandy, reports of clinical depression among those living in the hardest hit areas have mostly recovered to levels seen before the storm. But reports of anger in the most affected areas have increased. Bonus finding: More residents smoke and fewer eat healthily than before the storm.
  7. Income more to blame for obesity than food deserts: In a first-of-its-kind study exploring the relationship between adult obesity and food deserts, Gallup found that lack of access to grocery stores alone doesn't matter in terms of obesity; it only matters when Americans also have low incomes. But being low-income is associated with higher obesity rates, regardless of access to food.
  8. Engaged employees have a healthier lifestyle: Employees who are engaged at work are more likely to report eating healthier, exercising more frequently, and consuming more fruits and vegetables than workers who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged.
  9. Single-parent households struggle more to afford food: Thirty-one percent of single-parent households said there were times in the past 12 months when they struggled to afford food, compared with 19% two-parent households. Younger parents and parents with three or more children also had more trouble affording food at times.
  10. Among U.S. workers, lack of exercise is linked more to obesity than eating habits: Exercising fewer than three days a week is more closely linked to U.S. workers being obese than any of 26 other behavioral factors, including healthy eating. This held true even while controlling for age, ethnicity, race, marital status, gender, income, education, region, and religiosity.

Read all of our 2013 well-being discoveries, and check out what Gallup and Healthways discovered in 2011 and 2012.

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 500 adults, or roughly 14,500 per month, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

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 of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone 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 to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for 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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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