Record 21 states saw their residents well-being drop in 2017, no states saw an improvement in well-being, new data shows
There’s nothing here to smile about.
For the first time on record, there was not a single state in America that saw an improvement in its residents’ levels of overall well-being, according to data released Tuesday from Gallup and digital health company Sharecare, which included 160,000 interviews from residents of all 50 states. Well-being — which measures everything from mental, physical and financial health to having solid relationships and a sense of purpose in your life — is a way of looking at the quality of Americans lives.
Furthermore, “the 21 U.S. states that saw their wellbeing drop in 2017 shattered the previous record set in 2009 amidst the Great Recession, when 15 states had lower well-being than the year before,” Gallup and Sharecare, which began looking into well-being in 2008, note. This is “particularly notable given that Americans’ confidence in the economy and perceptions of the job market are substantially better in 2017 than they were in 2009.”
One thing that is driving down our well-being is our declining mental and emotional health, says Dan Witters, the research director of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. “It’s an unprecedented worsening … This is nothing like we have ever seen before,” he says.
Indeed, depression levels are “the highest we have ever measured,” says Witters; in 2017, nearly one in five (18%) of Americans said they had been professionally diagnosed at some point as being depressed. And the numbers of people who said they had recently found little interest or pleasure in doing things increased seven percentage points from the year prior, meaning that 17 million more people now say this; plus, our quality of relationship closeness has worsened.
Among the health questions that Americans responded less positively to: Did you experience worry a lot of the day yesterday; how frequently are you bothered with having little interest or pleasure in doing things; has a doctor or nurse ever told you that you are depressed? People also responded more negatively to being asked to rate — on a five point scale — how much they agreed or disagreed that: You like what you do each day; you get positive energy from family and friends; there is a leader in your life who makes you enthusiastic about the future.
But it’s not just mental health that took a hit: “With the exception of community well-being, all of the national well-being elements [purpose, social, financial, physical] suffered declines in 2017. These declines came despite improvement in key economics metrics, including unemployment, perceptions of standard of living, confidence in the economy and optimism about spending.”
Interestingly, these declines in wellbeing are largely due to well-being declines among certain groups, like Democrats, women, minorities and lower income people. This brought down the overall scores for all Americans.
Whatever your politics, one things is clear, says Witters: “2017 was an unquestionably psychologically tumultuous year for us — and it manifested in markedly lower well-being.”
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