Panama leads the world in well-being; U.S. fails to crack top 10
Despite financial challenges, Panama scores top in the world for four out of five measures of well-being. Click …
For years now, Gallup and partner Healthways have been ranking U.S. states’ well-being. (See the 2014 best-off states here, and the worst-off states here, or watch the video at the bottom of this post.) Now they’ve added the rest of the world to the mix.
It’s part of a widespread and apparently accelerating trend toward weighing elements like happiness — not just traditional money-based quantifiers like gross domestic product — in evaluating the relative condition of populations. The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index conducted 133,000 surveys in 135 countries on five criteria. Each of those five elements is defined by two statements that respondents are asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 5, strongly disagree to strongly agree:
• “You like what you do every day.”
• “You learn or do something interesting every day.”
• “Someone in your life always encourages you to be healthy.”
• “Your friends and family give you positive energy every day.”
• “You have enough money to do everything you want to do.”
• “In the last seven days, you have worried about money.” (This was a negative indicator.)
• “The city or area where you live is a perfect place for you.”
• “In the last 12 months, you have received recognition for helping to improve the city or area where you live.”
• “In the last seven days, you have felt active and productive every day.”
• “Your physical health is near-perfect.”
Gallup and Healthways then determined whether a population was “thriving,” “struggling” or suffering” in each element — that is, strong and consistent in well-being for a given element, moderate and inconsistent, or low and inconsistent. (Click here for a PDF of the full 124-page report, including details on the methodology.)
The index ranked nations by the proportion of their populations that were seen as thriving in at least three elements.
Perhaps its biggest surprise: The United States is not among the top 10 countries. Only 33 percent of its population is thriving in at least three elements of well-being, a showing that Gallup and Healthways deems “good but not great.” While the elements of purpose and social well-being are strengths — “consistent with Gallup’s finding that the U.S. has one of the most engaged workforces in the world” — in other areas, “the U.S. does not stand out,” the report says. Financial well-being is “arguably the biggest area of challenge” for the U.S., because “too many American adults are struggling to live within their means.”
Another surprise of the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index is the fact that Latin America has six nations in the top 10 — including Panama at No. 1. And it has none in the bottom 10.
Europe has three countries in the top 10. The Middle East, Asia and Africa have none.
Here’s a Wall Street Journal video report from earlier this year, on the top- and bottom-ranked U.S. states: