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Americans’ Well-Being Is Declining—Here’s Why

Americans’ Well-Being Is Declining—Here’s Why

Women, blacks, Hispanics, Democrats and low-income families saw the greatest declines.

Despite a consistent uptick since 2014, Americans have experienced a substantial decline in overall well-being this year, according to a survey of more than 135,000 American adults by Gallup and Sharecare.

What does “well-being” really mean? According to Gallup and Sharecare, “well-being” is determined by five distinct elements: Sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship with one’s community and physical health.

These five elements contribute to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index score, with 0 being the lowest score (or worst possible well-being) and 100 being the highest (or the best possible well-being). In 2016, the average Well-Being Index score among Americans was 62.1; this year’s score for the first nine months of 2017 is 61.5, a 0.6-point decline.

Who experienced the greatest decline?
Those with the largest drops in their Well-Being Index score include Democrats, as well as groups that traditionally align with the Democratic Party: women, blacks, Hispanics and lower-income households. Across genders, racial and ethnic groups, income brackets and political parties, women had the greatest decline in well-being, with a 1.1-point drop; the score for men was unchanged.

What caused this year’s decline?
Major drops in emotional health, social well-being and sense of purpose contributed to this year’s overall decline in American well-being:

  • Emotional health: The percentage of adults reporting significant concern or worry on any day has increased, as well as adults reporting little interest or pleasure in doing things they once enjoyed
  • Social well-being: The number of Americans reporting a supportive social circle or partner who encourages them to be healthy has declined
  • Sense of purpose: Fewer Americans enjoy the things they do each day and many do not feel that they have a leader in their life who makes them optimistic about the future

Out of the five elements that contribute to the Well-Being Index score, community well-being has remained unchanged, and financial and physical well-being are down only slightly in 2017.

Other factors that have a relationship to the country’s lower Well-Being Index score include an increase in uninsured Americans over three consecutive quarters and increased reports of daily worries, especially in Spanish-speaking Hispanics.

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