Increased levels of optimism and healthy behavior drove Americans' overall well-being to a seven-month high in January, according to one poll.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (WBI) rose last month, with the improved U.S. economy and unemployment rate.
The WBI life evaluation index, which measures how much optimism we feel about our current lives and anticipated future life situations, reached 50.1, its highest point since March 2011. Americans who told Gallup pollsters that they were thriving reached an eight-month high of 53.4 percent, while those who said they were suffering (3.3 percent) hit its lowest point since January 2011.
And the healthy behaviors index, which measures lifestyle habits, improved to 63.3 in January, from 61 in December. Sixty-four percent of Americans reported that they ate "healthy all day yesterday," and 55.7 percent ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables four times in the last week. In addition, 49.1 percent said they exercised 30 minutes at least three days in the last week, the best January on record.
"We can see clearly from the WBI that as the economy and unemployment rates improve, so does the overall well-being of America," said Ben Leedle, Healthways president and CEO. "January’s results are a step in the right direction and reiterate that we must focus the nation’s efforts and resources on the many areas of well-being to improve the overall health of all people, which will also improve productivity while lowering health care costs."
Americans' emotional health has also improved. For the fifth month in a row, the emotional health index, a composite of daily experiences, showed respondents had less stress, worry and sadness than in the previous six months. In addition, a high number of Americans (92.6 percent) said they were "treated with respect a lot of the day yesterday." Such a response gives insights into how Americans feel and can carry over into areas such as engagement in their work and their productivity.
The physical health index, analyzing the nation's physical health, improved to 77.1. The one anomaly in the improved WBI numbers was the work environment Index, which evaluates job satisfaction. Though it remained low and flat (47.6), it nonetheless reported that 80.1 percent of employees said their "supervisor always creates an environment that is trusting and open."