Happiness, health and stress

Happiness, health and stress

Index of happiness and stress finds links with health issues


WASHINGTON — The Gallup Organization and a health industry partner now offer a detailed daily measure of U.S. happiness and stress that you can look up on the Internet. They hope that it will be as influential an indicator of national progress someday as the gross domestic product.

The index, which is based on 1,000 in-depth interviews nightly, is the first time that happiness and its many components have been measured regularly and precisely in terms other than dollars.

To come up with the daily index, Gallup asks a battery of questions about respondents’ previous days, including state of health, economic comfort, job satisfaction, social life, restedness, optimism, worry and other factors in contentment.

The magic of the effort, which started Jan. 2, isn’t in the simple results: Spring lifts gloom, for example, and manufacturing jobs are stressful. Rather, it’s in teasing out previously unknown links between job stress and health, or depression and success at quitting smoking.

For example, a closer look at one subset puts a new value on health insurance: Among sick people with no health insurance, 56% reported a lot of stress in the previous day. Among those with health insurance, only 39% reported a lot of stress.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, hailed the index and its vast underlying data set as “music to the ears of the profession of public health.”

“We have lots of information about disease, cost and risk,” Gerberding said of the new index and its database, “but we know very little about health and how to measure it.” Her hope is that the index will reveal special traits for healthy people.

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