Healthways, Gallup present findings from Well-Being Index at RSA meeting

Executives and scientists from the Gallup and Healthways organisations presented findings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® (WBI) which has collected information from approximately 3,000 adults in the United Kingdom over the past three months. The presentation, entitled New Metrics for a New Era, occurred at a meeting of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) which was moderated by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of RSA and included commentary by Dr David Halpern, director, Cabinet Office Behavioural Insight Team and Paul Allin, director, National Well-Being Project at the Office for National Statistics.

First introduced in the United States in 2008, the WBI has established that five factors, in addition to physical health, are major determinants of the well-being of a country, a region, a company and an individual. These factors, or domains, are: Life Evaluation, Healthy Behaviours, Emotional Health, Basic Access and Work Environment. In addition, ongoing WBI research has shown that well-being is an extremely strong predictor of the relative costs of health care for individuals, businesses and countries, with individuals who are thriving having health care costs approximately 20 percent lower than average, while those who are struggling have costs 50 percent higher than average.

Surveying for the WBI in the United Kingdom, including England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, began in January. Random telephone calls to both land lines and mobile phones are made on a daily basis and a minimum of 1,000 surveys are completed each month. Significant findings revealed by the responses over the past three months include:

  • Less than half of Britons (49 percent) say they are thriving and scores in this domain decline steadily with age.
  • A quarter of the population is obese and another 31 percent are overweight. Fewer than half exercise regularly; one in four people smoke and respondents under 30 are more likely to smoke than any other age group.
  • Scores in the Physical Health domain are relatively high in the UK, as compared to the US, with fewer respondents indicating they have been diagnosed with long-term conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • While the UK scores for the Healthy Behaviours, Physical Health and Basic Access domains exceed those recorded in the US, Britons rate their lives overall far less positively. Emotional Health scores in the UK and the US are essentially identical.
  • Respondents are clearly dissatisfied with the nature of their Work Environment with only 42.0 percent reporting a collaborative relationship with their supervisor.

"We are very pleased with the introduction of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index in the United Kingdom and the depth of insights we've been able to derive from just the first three months of survey responses," commented Dr Jim Harter, Gallup's chief scientist - workplace & wellbeing. "As the size of the data base increases, we will be able to provide even finer cuts of the data which, based on our experience in the US, will reveal the critical issues unique to specific geographies and segments of the population. This specificity informs the development and implementations of solutions to improve well-being that are focused on issues that matter for each geography or segment. Government and business leaders can then provide particular focus on understanding and addressing issues impacting well-being."

Built on the science of behavioural economics, the development of the WBI was guided by the World Health Organisation's recognition that "Health is the state of physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease." Questions used in the survey were derived from Gallup's annual World Poll, currently conducted in over 150 countries, and specific physical health and healthy behaviours questions provided by Healthways, which were derived from a wide variety of validated assessment instruments. As the international use of the WBI increases, countries will be contributing and have access to what is already the world's largest well-being reference data base, as well as specific information about solutions to improve well-being that have proven effective at the individual, company, regional and national levels around the world.

"Less than optimal health and rapidly increasing health care cost have been identified by the leaders of many developed nations as a serious threat to their economy, their future growth and their ability to compete in a global market," said Healthways' president and CEO, Ben R, Leedle, Jr. "But designing solutions that only focus on those who are already ill leaves out at least half the picture, particularly with respect to designing and implementing services to help assure that those who are healthy stay that way and those who are at risk for health compromise do not progress to diagnosed disease. Simply put, healthier people cost less and perform better.

"Originally designed to provide actionable information for the large percentage of the population that does not actively use the health care system, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index has proven to be an effective and comprehensive resource for determining a population's base line well-being, identifying specific opportunities for improvement at both the individual and population levels, and measuring progress over time," Leedle added. "As such, it provides clear insights for government, related agency and business leaders charged with shaping the policy responses necessary to improve health, increase individual and organizational performance, lower health care costs and achieve sustained economic growth. The WBI is rapidly becoming the 'official statistic' of well-being in the US, and we anticipate it achieving similar status in the UK and other nations around the world."




The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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