Are You Thriving, Struggling, Or Surviving?

A recent article in The Economist discussed the Global Well-Being Index by Gallup and Healthways.  This study of 134,000 people in 135 countries investigated whether people are thriving, struggling and suffering in five areas: purpose (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), physical (having good health and enough energy to get things done daily), and community (liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community).

Whereas measures of well-being have typically focused on economic indicators such as income, Gallup and Healthways argue for a richer conceptualization of well-being:
"Income is not worth much without health to enjoy it, and good health is a blessing in and of itself, allowing people to live a full and worthwhile life. A good education is not only a vital requirement to do well in life, but it brings its own joys and a richer life in many dimensions. People enjoy contributing meaningfully to the betterment of civil society. The absence of the fear of war and violence, something that was rarely enjoyed by people’s ancestors, also contributes to high well-being."
Gallup-Healthways define thriving as well-being that is strong and consistent in a particular element. Struggling is defined as well-being that is moderate or inconsistent in a particular element. Suffering is defined as well-being that is low and inconsistent in a particular element.

Selected results of the survey show that:
  • Globally, only 17 percent of of the population are thriving in three or more elements. The highest percentage of thriving is found in community well-being, with 26 percent of survey respondents falling into this category. Survey respondents are least likely to be thriving in purpose well-being, at 18 percent.
  • Respondents in the wealthiest quartile, those who have completed at least four years of education beyond high school, and those who are married or in a domestic partnership are most likely to be thriving in three or more elements of well-being.
  • The Americas have the highest levels of well-being in three or more elements and in purpose, social, community, and physical well-being. 
  • In socially and family-oriented Latin America, social well-being is the best-performing element, with 43% of the population thriving. Latin Americans generally report higher levels of well-being than any other regional group. That so many people are reporting positive emotions and higher well-being in Latin America at least partly reflects the cultural tendency in the region to focus on the positives in life.
  • Asian respondents generally have lower levels of well-being compared with global percentages. In purpose well-being (13%) and social well-being (19%), Asians are four or five percentage points below the global percentages in thriving. This may partly result from cultural norms as well as from lower development, work environment, and economic issues that affect the well-being of respondents in Asia.
  • Well-being in Europe varies considerably by country. Twenty-two percent of Europeans overall are thriving in purpose well-being. However, in southern and Eastern European countries such as Albania, Croatia, and Greece, where unemployment remains in the double digits, residents are much less likely to be thriving in this element (7% to 8%) than those in Western European nations such as Denmark (45%), Austria (36%), and Sweden (33%), where unemployment rates are much lower. As a whole, Europeans are most likely to be thriving in financial well-being, at 37%, although there is a broad range among individual countries, from 11% in Greece to 72% in Sweden.
  • Despite relatively strong economic growth in many sub-Saharan African countries in recent years, more than half of the region’s population (56%) are not thriving in any of the five well-being elements. Only 9% of sub-Saharan Africans are thriving in three or more elements, the lowest for any region worldwide. Sub-Saharan Africans are far more likely to be suffering than thriving in financial well-being (51% vs. 9%, respectively), purpose well-being (38% vs. 15%), and social well-being (37% vs. 16%). Physical well-being is the only element in which the region’s residents are as likely to be thriving (20%) as suffering (16%) — though most (64%) are struggling in this element.
Read more: resources:
Child Well-Being and Equity in the US: Online Data and Analysis Tool (
Gallup Interactives: City Wellbeing Tracking (
Aging and Caregiving: A Data-Driven Learning Guide (
Mapping the Measure of America (
Frederique Laubepin

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