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The Well-Being Index: Scoring your life (which depends on the weather)

The Well-Being Index: Scoring your life (which depends on the weather)

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How's your well-being today? Contrary to what you might think, it has a lot to do with the day's weather.

How's your well-being today? That's probably a question you haven't thought of asking today. In fact, defining well-being isn't exactly simple. Luckily, Gallup gave it a shot, delivered some interesting factoids and roughly concludes that weather plays a big role in your personal well-being.

Gallup-Healthways released the latest reading of its Well-Being Index (WBI) for August. The big news: People were feeling pretty well in August. The WBI clocked in at 67, the highest measure in a year. A touch skeptical I went right for the footnotes and the components of the WBI. Here's what I found:

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index Composite Score is comprised of six sub-indices: Life Evaluation, Emotional Health, Physical Health, Healthy Behavior, Work Environment and Basic Access. The Life Evaluation Sub-Index is partially based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale and combines the evaluation of one’s present life situation with one’s anticipated life situation five years from now. The Emotional Health Sub-Index is primarily a composite of respondents’ daily experiences, asking respondents to think about how they felt yesterday along nine dimensions. The Physical Health Sub-Index is comprised of questions related to: Body Mass Index, disease burden, sick days, physical pain, daily energy, history of disease and daily health experiences. The Healthy Behavior Sub-Index includes items measuring life style habits with established relationships to health outcomes. The Work Environment Sub-Index surveys workers on several factors to gauge their feelings and perceptions about their work environment. The Basic Access Sub-Index is based on thirteen items measuring resident’s access to food, shelter, healthcare and a safe and satisfying place to live.

That's a lot of moving parts and the WBI scores by gender and region were notable. To wit:

  • People in the West were happiest with an August score of 68.5. People in the South had a score of 66.1.
  • People in the Midwest had the best emotional health (79.6).
  • People in the Northeast had the best physical health (78.1) with the South lagging with a score of 76.3.
  • People in the West had the best score in healthy behavior (68).
  • The national work environment score was 50.5, which was a big deal since more than half of us feel better about our work situations. The Northeast is the laggard here with a score of 47.6.
  • Senior citizens (above 65) have the highest WBI of all the age groups with a score of 68.9.
  • Married people have the highest well-being score (69.4) and Asians are off the charts relative to other ethnic groups (71).

Ponder all these data points and it's quite possible that the WBI comes down to the weather. Yes, the weather. We're happier in the summer---especially in August when a lot of us are on vacations. We exercise more. And we eat better since we can't hide our blubber with a sweatshirt. Gallup-Healthways notes:

Potential seasonal and economic effects on Healthy Behavior have been observed since the WBI’s inception in January 2008. The WBI’s Healthy Behavior Sub-Index rose by 0.8 percent in August to close the month at 64.8, a yearly high matching last August’s Healthy Behavior score. Last month, 52.1 percent of Americans reported exercising at least three times per week, and 59.0 percent reported eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four times per week.

In other words, the weather influences your activity and that fuels your well being. Sounds kind of obvious eh? The bad news: Your well-being is likely to tank for the next 5 months or so.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure