What does ‘well-being’ mean to you? How would you measure it? Can we even try? Well, a study, called the ‘2014 Country Well-being Rankings Report’, has been carried out by researchers at Gallup and Healthways, (a US natural foods chain) which brings together more than 146,000 surveys in 145 countries in an attempt to do just that – create an index whereby we can measure a country’s well-being and rank them against each other. Here in Britain we didn’t do nearly as well as might be expected.
One particular category that dragged our overall score down is called ‘social’, which measures how supportive and loving our relationships are, but we were also less positive than many poorer countries, particularly in the Americas. We were also only 67th when it comes to physical well-being. This is a little disturbing, not least because we know that those in supportive relationships are less stressed, feel more respected and are more likely to be willing to help others.
Perhaps it is not surprising that in a country so dependent on financial services we scored best in the ‘financial’ category – how we manage our finances to reduce stress in our life – but even then we only came 20th.
Panama was, for the second consecutive year, top of the well-being league followed by Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Belize, Chile, Denmark, Guatemala, Austria and Mexico.The five countries with the lowest levels of well-being are Tunisia, Togo, Cameroon, Bhutan and Afghanistan.
What do statistics like this indicate about the society we live in? It certainly suggests that it is not financial affluence that makes us happiest. Supportive networks in close communities, extended families living nearby and a willingness to engage and work with others to create an overall sense of well-being override material possessions. Whilst we are encouraged to want more and more; to work harder and harder to buy technology that seems to take us further from physical interaction with those we love, we are losing sight of those things that nurture us mentally and physically.
Statistics can’t always be relied upon to tell us the truth of a given situation, but surely this is one of those occasions when data is sending us a message we would do well to take notice of?