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Americans' Wellbeing Remains at 2010 Low; Wellbeing has declined the most in the East.

Byline: Dan Witters

Synopsis: Americans' Well-Being Index score of 66.5 in October is essentially unchanged from the 2010 low from last month, and down from the three-year high of 67.4 in May of this year. Lower wellbeing scores among Americans living in the East account for much of the decline seen since May.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' Well-Being Index score of 66.5 in October statistically matches the 2010 low recorded in September, and is down from the three-year high of 67.4 in May. The nation's wellbeing, however, exceeds the 66.1 found in October 2008, just after the onset of the financial crisis, and remains well above the levels from late 2008 and early 2009.

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These findings are based on approximately 30,000 interviews conducted each month with Americans, aged 18 years and older, as a part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The index is composed of six sub-indexes that include 55 individual items that collectively measure Americans' physical, emotional, and fiscal wellbeing.

Greatest Declines in Wellbeing in the East

Wellbeing scores dropped the most in the East in October compared with May, when the measure was at a 29-month high nationally. Wellbeing is down in all four regions, but the decline in the East is at least twice that in the Midwest, South, and West.

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While certain seasonal aspects of wellbeing, such as exercising and reports of cold and flu, typically worsen throughout the country as winter approaches, Easterners' declining wellbeing is also a result of more people downgrading how they rate their lives. Life evaluation scores -- which Gallup uses to categorize Americans as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering" -- are eroding faster in the East than elsewhere in the country.

The percentage of Americans living in the East who are thriving dropped 2.9 percentage points in October compared with May, roughly double the decline found in the Midwest and West and far more than the near absence of change in the South. In May, Americans living in the East were the most likely to be thriving and those in the South were the least likely; in October, the opposite is the case.

Additionally, as thriving scores dropped, struggling scores increased in the East, Midwest, and West. While in May, Easterners were the least likely to be struggling, in October they are the most likely.

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Gallup classifies Americans as thriving or struggling based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, which asks people to evaluate their present and future lives on a ladder scale, with steps numbered from 0 to 10, where 0 is the worst possible life and 10 is the best possible life. Those who are thriving rate their current life at least a "7" and their future life at least a "8," while those who are suffering rate their current and future lives a "4" or lower, and those who are struggling are all others in between.

Bottom Line

Americans' wellbeing, particularly among those living in the East, has declined after reaching new highs in the late spring and early summer of this year. Some of the decline is the result of the seasonal effects of fall, during which people tend to exercise less, eat less fresh produce, and report more cases of cold and flu. Worsening evaluations of one's own life, however, could reflect realities of and frustrations with other national or local conditions, including the economic or jobs situation. While wellbeing scores continue to track ahead of 2008, Americans are doing no better than they were in 2009.

For complete October results by sub-index and demographic group, read the Gallup-Healthways Monthly U.S. Well-Being Report.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks U.S. wellbeing and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit well-beingindex.com.

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey Jan. 2, 2008-Oct. 31, 2010, with a random sample of more than 1 million adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is 0.6 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.
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Article Details
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Author:Witters, Dan
Publication:Gallup Poll News Service
Article Type:Survey
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 11, 2010
Words:887
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