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Over 55 and living in Utah? You’re in good hands, according to a new report.
For the first time, global well-being improvement leader Healthways and world-leading management consulting firm Gallup, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, have released a report ranking the well-being of older Americans in all 50 states. According to the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being: State Well-Being Rankings for Older Americans, Hawaii is the state where older Americans have the highest well-being, while West Virginia ranked as the state with the lowest well-being for citizens above the age of 55.
“There are proven and effective interventions that combine social and physical activities to keep people healthy, active and productive as they age”
The 10 states with the highest well-being for older Americans are:
3. South Dakota
6. New Hampshire
9. New Mexico
The analysis is based on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being throughout the world. The report is based on self-reported data from 114,388 interviews with individuals age 55 and older on topics which go beyond physical health to capture how Americans feel and experience the context of their day-to-day lives. The Well-Being Index focuses on the five elements of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community, and physical. These five elements create a composite picture of the well-being of older Americans in each state and the nation that can inform public and private strategies to support the aging population.
“The greatest success of humankind is longer life. The challenge today for families and society is how to live longer, better with the highest state of well-being,” said Joseph F. Coughlin, director and founder of the MIT AgeLab. “Understanding our aging population, including Baby Boomers, the largest generation in our nation’s history, will be critical as we design policies and interventions to help older Americans thrive in all aspects of their lives.”
Gallup and Healthways research revealed that, nationally, adults 55 and older have higher well-being than the rest of the population across all five elements, and that well-being gets better with age. People 75 and older have even higher well-being than those ages 65 to 74, and they outscore the younger population by a sizable margin. In addition, older Americans enjoy high rates of financial well-being, where 52 percent are thriving, compared to 32 percent of Americans younger than 55.
“The trajectory of well-being for older adults is interesting because we do see a decline in well-being when people reach their late forties and early fifties, but then a significant increase across all five elements after that,” said Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. “From previous research, we know that higher well-being correlates with lower healthcare costs and increased productivity. Maintaining high well-being for older Americans will be especially important to employers as our country’s workforce ages and more individuals delay retirement.”
The report also noted other positive trends for older Americans, including better access to healthcare compared to those under 55 and a greater likelihood of having health insurance and a personal doctor. In addition, they eat more fresh produce and smoke less. However, people age 55 and over exercise less and have higher rates of heart attack than those younger than them, highlighting the importance of targeted programs to keep older Americans active.
“There are proven and effective interventions that combine social and physical activities to keep people healthy, active and productive as they age,” said Joy Powell, market president, Healthways Senior Solutions. “Our research shows that older Americans who are thriving in well-being exercise far more, have less depression, and have lower rates of obesity and chronic illness.”
Powell and Coughlin will present data from the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being: State Well-Being Rankings for Older Americans report in a keynote address at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4A) conference on July 15 in Philadelphia. That event coincides with the sixth White House Conference on Aging, along with the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, and the 80th anniversary of Social Security.