- Two straight years of declining wellbeing snapped in 2019
- Financial wellbeing improves notably
- Overall wellbeing remains well below 2016 levels
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Wellbeing in the U.S. has leveled off in 2019 after two years of decline, with the Well-Being Index score of 61.4 statistically unchanged relative to 2018. This ends a deterioration that began in 2017 but still indicates a nation that has substantially lower wellbeing overall than what was measured in the peak year of 2016.
|2014||2015||2016||2017||2018||2019 YTD||Change Since 2016||Change Since 2018|
|Well-Being Index score||61.6||61.7||62.1||61.5||61.2||61.4||-0.7*||0.2|
|* Indicates statistically significant decline; ** indicates statistically significant improvement (p<.05)|
|Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, 2014-2019|
Career and social wellbeing are the primary sources of the overall drop in the Well-Being Index score since 2016. The remaining three elements, however, are now statistically unchanged since that time, with financial wellbeing showing significant improvement in the past year.
These data are based on 9,645 surveys with U.S. adults across all 50 states, conducted through the first eight months of 2019. The Well-Being Index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 represents the lowest possible wellbeing and 100 represents the highest possible wellbeing. The Well-Being Index score for the nation comprises metrics affecting overall wellbeing and each of the five essential elements of wellbeing:
- Career: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
- Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
- Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
- Community: liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
- Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily
Gallup has been tracking wellbeing nationally since 2008. Career wellbeing was previously named "purpose wellbeing," but the definition has remained constant. Based on a decade of prior measurement, results derived from January through August 2019 are not expected to be statistically different from those for the entire calendar year.
The precipitous drop in Americans' wellbeing in 2017, characterized by a record 21 states experiencing declines relative to 2016, represented a watershed shift in how U.S. adults reported their wellbeing experiences dating to the launch of the Well-Being Index in 2008. Characterized primarily through the worsening of emotional and psychological factors rather than of physical aspects, those who suffered the greatest declines in 2017 included women, blacks, Hispanics, lower-income households and self-identified Democrats. Notably, the drop occurred amid the continued improvement during this period of key economic metrics closely related to wellbeing, including unemployment, perceptions of standard of living, economic confidence and optimism about spending.
The continued deterioration of wellbeing in 2018 served as a potential omen to Republican candidates, given the close demonstrated relationship between wellbeing and shifts in county-level voting patterns in U.S. presidential elections between 2012 and 2016. Lower-wellbeing counties were much more likely to shift from being majority Barack Obama supporters in 2012 to majority Donald Trump supporters in 2016. In 2018, in turn, Democrats gained a net of more than 40 House seats in the midterm elections after two years of worsening wellbeing nationally.
So far in 2019, the slowing decline in overall wellbeing detected in 2018 has stopped altogether, with a notable improvement in financial wellbeing -- which has improved to its highest level since 2016 but not enough to move the overall Well-Being Index score significantly. Social wellbeing, too, has shown slight improvement in 2019, while the other elements are unchanged. As such, the potential implications for the 2020 elections -- still over a year away -- are unclear. While its downward trajectory has stopped, wellbeing remains well below what was measured in the final year of the Obama presidency, leaving open the possibility that voters suffering its effects will seek change at the ballot box, as they did in 2016. However, the leveling of the downward slope could also serve to relieve the impetus for more change as U.S. adults settle into a more stable wellbeing environment.
Learn more about how the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index works.