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5 Critical Factors That Determine Your Wellness

These five measurements can determine whether you thrive or just survive.

Medically reviewed in December 2021

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More Americans are thriving than ever before, according to the 2016 Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being Report. Smoking is at a historic low, exercise is at an all-time high , and more people have access to healthcare. In all, Gallup-Healthways estimates that 55 percent of people are thriving, compared to less than 49 percent in 2008, when the firm began measuring. But what does “thriving” mean? Gallup-Healthways measures five metrics that, together, make up well-being. Click through for a closer look at each of the five measurements. 

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Purpose

Having a sense of purpose can add years to your life, according to a 2014 study in Psychological Science. The study looked at more than 6,100 people between the ages of 20 and 75 over 14 years. Those who felt their lives had meaning lived longer than those who didn’t. The researchers measured purpose, and found that having a greater sense of purpose made someone 15 percent less likely to die in a 14-year period. Plus, the longevity benefit held true no matter what age a person was, or whether he or she had retired.  

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Social

Want to stay healthy? Reach out to friends, family and neighbors. A 2016 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found social connectedness was associated with less inflammation, healthier blood pressure and healthier weight. On a more personal level, married people report the lowest levels of depression, worry and stress, while people with children in the home report the most happiness, smiling and laughter, according to Gallup-Healthways. 

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Financial

The old saw goes that money can’t buy happiness, but for some that’s not entirely true. A salary of about $75,000 is the plateau of happiness, according to a 2010 study from Princeton University. Emotional well-being rises as income increases, but levels off at $75,000; more money than that doesn’t make people much happier. But if more is not better, neither is less. A 2013 study published in Social Science and Medicine suggests that debt is associated with higher stress and depression, worse self-reported health and higher blood pressure. Financial stress can even cause physical pain, according to a 2016 study of almost 34,000 American households. 

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Community

Where you live shouldn’t just be about the quality of schools, a short commute or entertainment in the area. The right community can keep you healthy, too. Access to healthy food is one way your neighborhood can keep you healthy (or unhealthy), and so is the closeness of the community. A neighborhood with safe, well-maintained streets and accessibility to shops, restaurants and places of interest may allow you to walk or bike more. Even the amount of greenery in your neighborhood can boost your well-being. A previous State of American Well-Being report found that parks were associated with less obesity, less heart disease, less diabetes, more productivity and better mental health. 

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Physical

If you don’t have your health, what do you have? The report found that millennials and people in the western US are the most likely to exercise. And, as income rises, so does exercise. Millennials are the least likely to be obese. Exercise is at an all-time high, and smoking is at record lows. Unfortunately, diabetes, depression and obesity are all higher than they were in 2008. The Centers for Disease Control and prevention recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week is enough to keep you healthy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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