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.
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.
Chronic condition prevalence is substantially lower in the UK than in the U.S., researchers found. Case in point: 15.9 percent of Britons reported high cholesterol versus 27.7 percent in the U.S. And only 20.6 percent of UK respondents reported having high blood pressure, whereas 30.9 percent of Americans did. Diabetes was also higher in the U.S., although overall, obesity rates were comparable.
Some 66 percent of the Britons surveyed responded that they eat fruits and vegetables regularly, versus only 57 percent of respondents in the U.S. And the two basically tied on exercising, with the U.S. taking a slight edge: 51 percent versus 49. "It's basically dead even in that nobody is really exercising enough," said Duggan.
Chalk it up to widespread U.S. smoking bans; the U.S. was the clear winner in terms of smoking. Some 26.2 percent of the respondents in the UK said they were smokers, whereas only 20 percent in the U.S. indicated that they were.
According to almost every marker, Americans report being happier on the job (87.5 percent here versus 83.8 percent in the UK). The most startling disparity, Duggan said, came in terms of collaborative supervision. Only 42.1 percent of Britons reported that they feel their supervisor is more a partner than a boss, whereas 57.1 percent of Americans said they enjoyed a collaborative relationship. Notably, less than half of respondents in both the UK and U.S. indicated that they were really happy in their jobs.
Actually, overall emotional well being in the UK was found to be slightly higher than the U.S., at 79.2 percent of respondents coming in as emotionally healthy, versus 79.1 percent stateside. But Duggan said digging a little deeper into those numbers reveals some real differences. People in the UK reported lower stress levels, which boosted that country's overall emotional health score. But our British counterparts did worse in terms of their interest in learning and doing new things on a daily basis.