Introducing: The Happiness Index

The press is calling it the Dow Jones Industrial Average of American well-being. Every day, since January of this year, pollsters have called 1,000 Americans to quiz them on their health and happiness.

The first set of results from this unprecedented survey were released on Wednesday, as the inaugural report of The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and they find that 47 percent of Americans are struggling to stay afloat, and 4 percent are suffering as a result of money woes and illness. The remaining 49 percent say they are thriving, based on their quality of life and outlook on their future.

The index will continue to be updated daily, and will eventually be able to give a breakdown of well-being by profession, commute times, even ZIP codes.

All that data should be welcomed by researchers — like Freakonomics guest-bloggers Justin Wolfers and Arthur Brooks— who study happiness.

Now we’re curious: where would you put yourself on the index’s well-being ladder. Thriving, struggling, or suffering? And why?


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  1. JimR says:

    Personally, I’m thriving. I’m working at a job where I am overpaid and enjoy the work; I have a loving wife who is great at saving, and we have no health problems. We’re on track to buy a new car, and soon a new condo.
    Things couldn’t be much better, actually.
    Of course, I live in Japan, and I have no credit cards, mortgages, or other loans.
    Results may not be typical.

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  2. Barb says:

    I wish those weren’t our only choices. I would not say I’m thriving, but I’m certainly far from struggling or suffering. All of those words have such strong connotations, be it good or bad – I’m more a middle-of-the-road optimist!

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  3. dregina says:

    Struggling, but temporarily, by choice – my partner has one year left out of a two year work contract with an educational non-profit that he loves and believes in, but pays peanuts. We do struggle to make ends meet at the end of each month, but because it’s temporary and because it’s by choice, it doesn’t grate the way it could.

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  4. Phil says:

    Interesting to have a statistic. I think we need to be careful about how we interpret it. It might be useful in understanding general trends about the mental health of citizens. But the terms “happiness” and “suffering” probably have much deeper meanings than the simple definitions used to set up the statistical model.

    What would be nice to know is what kinds of thinking strategies are used by happy people versus suffering people. Do happy people see things in a more optimistic way, while people who suffer see things darker? How we see things can create a self-reinforcing cycle of happiness or suffering.

    I’d like to see a thought-index (maybe based on the works of Aaron Beck or Marty Seligman).

    Interesting post! Thanks.

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  5. Helen says:

    Hrm, none of the above. My family is in a challenging transition period during which both income and expenses are increasing dramatically. Give us a few more months to figure out the answer.

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  6. Witty Nickname says:

    I am going to go with thriving. I live in Houston where the market is booming, even though I don’t work in the energy industry it is sure boosting our local economy. I just got a huge raise, we have a new baby and a descent house that is going UP in value.

    Oh, and the state in considering us a state tax rebate check because we have a record surplus.

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  7. achilles3 says:

    Thriving big time…Moved to South Korea last August. Barely work and get paid very well.
    Expat for LIFE :-)

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  8. Brent says:


    My wife and I share a belief that families should strive to live below one’s means and invest in their future.

    This allowed us to accumulate a modest wealth that has cushioned the bumps along the road of life.

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