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UK vs. U.S.: Who Has Better Health And Well Being?

The Huffington Post   Catherine Pearson First Posted: 04/16/11 01:23 PM ET Updated: 06/16/11 06:12 AM ET


With the Royal Wedding weeks away, all eyes are trained on the UK.

Now there's even more reason to keep our gaze fixed on Britain, with the release of the first-ever Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (WBI), which gives a bird's-eye view of health and happiness in the sovereign state.

Though the goal was not to set up a comparison between the UK and the U.S. -- the WBI was introduced here in 2008 -- the U.S. data can be used as an important benchmark.

So how did it all come together?

Over the course of three months, researchers called some 3,000 adults, at random, in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Callers asked respondents about what the WBI has determined to be its five main factors -- in addition to physical health -- that contribute to the well being. Those includes things like general working conditions and a sense that your community is moving forward.

"This study was supported all the way up at the top," said Nikki Duggan, Director of Analytics at Healthways. "Prime Minister David Cameron believes that wellbeing should inform policy decisions in the UK, because it affects healthcare costs so dramatically."

Tom Cox, COO of Healthways said that because the data is new, it is a little early for policies to have been put in place. But he said that eventually, the data will help government and business leaders pinpoint what areas of well being are suffering in their respective communities, thus affecting how healthcare funds should be allocated.

So how does the UK stack up to the U.S., health-wise? Take a look.

Positivity | Winner: U.S.
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Though Britons scored better in terms of healthy behaviors and overall physical health, they still rated their lives "less positively" than Americans.

When asked to evaluate their lives on a scale from 1 to 10 -- 1 being the worst, 10 being the best -- 54 percent of Americans fell within the "thriving" category, i.e., they scored themselves closer to 10, whereas only 48 percent of Britons did. That gap increased with age -- only 36 percent of the 65+ population in the UK said they were thriving, versus 43 percent in the U.S.

Duggan said that in the UK, this element of the study has gotten a lot of hype, and not necessarily of the most positive kind: people have made light of the survey as a mere happiness index. Though Duggan said happiness and positivity do indeed influence overall well being, they are only part of a much more complex picture.
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