New Gallup Poll Shows More Americans Describe Themselves As 'Thriving'

More Americans were “thriving” and fewer were “struggling” in May than have been since February of last year. 50-four per cent of Americans rated their lives highly enough to be considered thriving last month and 42.6% were considered struggling.

gallup american wellbeing life ratings chart 6/15/12

Photo: Gallup/Wellbeing

The percentage of Americans who are thriving has been steadily climbing since February and is now about on par with the high of 54.2% found in January and February of last year. Many more Americans are thriving than were during the 2008 and 2009 economic crisis.

Gallup classifies Americans as “thriving,” “struggling,” or “suffering” according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. Those who rate their present life a 7 or higher and their live in five years an 8 or higher are classified as thriving, while those who rate both dimensions a 4 or lower are considered suffering. Respondents whose ratings fall in between are considered struggling.

While Americans’ life ratings have improved slightly each of the past three months, this uptick reflects the increase in the percentage of women who are thriving. The percentage of women who are thriving has been on an upward trajectory since March, rising from 55.1% to 56.0% in April, and further to 56.5% in May. At the same time, the percentage of men who are thriving has remained essentially unchanged—51.5% in March and April and 51.3% in May.

Gallup has consistently found a higher percentage of women than men thriving since it started tracking Americans’ life ratings in January 2008. However, the gap in thriving between women and men has grown since that time. While men’s and women’s life ratings fell amid the financial crisis, women have bounced back more strongly than have men.

gallup american wellbeing life ratings chart 6/15/12

Photo: Gallup/Wellbeing

Seniors’ Life Ratings Up the Most Since 2008, but Still Lower Than Younger Adults’

The percentage of seniors, those aged 65 and older, who are thriving has increased over the past three months, rising to 45.1% in May—much higher than the 39.6% who were thriving in January 2008 before the economic crisis. This same level of improvement, however, is not seen among younger adults. The percentage of Americans aged 18 to 29, 30 to 44, and 45 to 64 who are thriving has been relatively unchanged over the past three months—and remains about on par with the levels seen in early 2008.

Still, seniors remain the least likely to be thriving and young adults the most likely.

gallup american wellbeing life ratings chart 6/15/12

Photo: Gallup/Wellbeing

Low-Income Adults’ Life Ratings Have Improved More Than High-Income Adults’

Low-income Americans’ life ratings are much better today than they were in early 2008, with 43.0% evaluating their lives well enough to be thriving, higher than the 37.6% measured in January 2008. Middle-income and high-income Americans, however, are about as likely to be thriving today as they were at the start of 2008.

gallup american wellbeing life ratings chart 6/15/12

Photo: Gallup/Wellbeing

Bottom Line

Americans’ life ratings improved in May, with the percentage thriving rising for the third straight month. This increase in thriving has come at the same time that Americans’ confidence in the economy has grown. In fact, the Gallup Economic Confidence Index registered its best monthly reading since January 2008 in May.

However, these improvements in Americans’ psyche came before the government put out its June 1 jobs report, which found an increase in unemployment and subsequently generated considerable negative media attention. Since the report, Americans’ confidence in the economy has declined slightly, but so far, their life ratings have not worsened. Americans might evaluate their lives less well in the future if they perceive a worsening economic situation.

Before the June 1 jobs report, Americans reported feeling better about their lives than in the recent past — with women’s, seniors’, and low-income adults’ life ratings improving since pre-financial crisis levels. This may reveal that men, young adults, the middle aged, and middle- and high-income adults are having a harder time recovering psychology — and perhaps financially — from the recession and ensuing jobs crisis than are their counterparts.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks wellbeing in the U.S., U.K., and Germany and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

To view and export trend data and for more information on each of the six Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index sub-indexes, please see the following charts: Well-Being Index, Life Evaluation Index, Emotional Health Index, Physical Health Index, Healthy behaviour Index, Work Environment Index, and Basic Access Index.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey May 1-31, 2012, with a random sample of 30,252 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

Life Evaluation Index figures from January 2008 to April 2009 reflect re-estimates calculated to address context effects that Gallup discovered after the data were originally published.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

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