Americans Eating Healthier and Exercising More, According to the February 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

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New Year’s resolutions are off to a great start as Americans are sticking to their healthier diets, according to February Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (WBI) data. The percentage of Americans who stated they ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables at least four days in the last week was 57.4 percent, an increase of 3.3 percentage points since December. This improvement, along with an increase in the percentage of Americans who exercised frequently, helped push up the nation’s Healthy Behavior Index score, which climbed to 63.9 in February, up 2.9 points since December.

The Physical Health Index, which measures America’s physical health, declined slightly to 76.5 in February, from 77.1 in January. A decline in the percentage of Americans reporting that they felt well-rested in February and increase in the percentage who had a cold or the flu caused the overall index to inch down. However, obesity dropped to 25.6 percent, tied for the lowest monthly level Gallup and Healthways have found since October 2008.It is important to note though, that Americans’ eating and exercise behaviors follow a typical seasonal trend, with these habits worsening in fall and winter and improving in the spring and summer.

Notwithstanding, the WBI composite score was essentially unchanged at 66.4 after reaching a seven-month high in January. Slight declines in the Emotional Health and Physical Health indices offset improvements in Healthy Behaviors.

Other key findings:

  • The Life Evaluation Index, which combines Americans’ current life and anticipated future life ratings, dropped a modest 0.5 points to 49.6. The percentage of Americans who rated their lives highly enough to be “thriving” (53.0 percent) remained unchanged in February, while those who were “suffering” increased 0.2 points to 3.5 percent.
  • The Emotional Health Index, a composite measure of Americans’ daily emotional experiences, dipped to 79.2, ending its five-month improvement streak. The percentage of Americans who did not “worry a lot of the day yesterday” declined 1.4 points to 67.8 percent and those without “stress a lot of the day yesterday” fell 2.5 points to 58.6 percent. On the plus side, the percentage of Americans who said they “learned or did something interesting yesterday” rose nearly two points to 64.8 percent, the highest score since measurement began in January 2008.
  • The Work Environment Index, which evaluates American workers’ perceptions of their workplaces, remained low and flat at 47.6. But, 80 percent of workers did report that their “supervisor always creates an environment that is trusting and open,” up from the recent past.

To download the full February report, click here.

For more on the science and methodology behind the WBI, please visit well-beingindex.com.