Understanding Well-Being in Europe, Region of Strong Contrasts

In a recent webinar, experts from Gallup and Sharecare shared insights into the state of well-being in Europe. Using data from the recently released Gallup-Sharecare Global Well-Being Index™, the panelists discussed issues ranging from why well-being measurement matters to the specific challenges that Europe is facing regarding well-being. They also proposed some steps European nations can take to improve well-being, such as leveraging evidence-based tools and respecting cultural differences when delivering solutions.

The Global Well-Being Index is a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being. The most comprehensive measure of well-being in the world, the Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals to capture the important aspects of how people feel about and experience their daily lives, extending well beyond conventional measures of physical health or economic indicators. The five elements of well-being are purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

When it comes to well-being, Europe is a region characterized by considerable disparity among countries. On one end of the spectrum are countries such as Denmark, Austria and Sweden, whose percentages of residents thriving in more than three elements are 40, 39 and 36 percent, respectively.

On the other end of the spectrum are Albania, Italy and Croatia, which all have fewer than 8 percent of their residents thriving in three or more elements. One element in which Europe is particularly strong is financial well-being. As a region, Europe leads the world in this element, with 37 percent of Europeans thriving in financial well-being (versus 25 percent worldwide). The top seven countries in the world with the highest financial well-being are all located in northern or central Europe. Sweden has the world’s highest financial well-being, with 72 percent of residents thriving in this element. The other six European countries leading the world in this element are Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Iceland and Belgium.

When looking at the percentage of residents thriving, European results for the other well-being elements are as follows:

  • Purpose (22 percent thriving in Europe versus 18 percent worldwide)
  • Social (27 percent versus 23 percent)
  • Community (28 percent versus 26 percent)
  • Physical (22 percent versus 24 percent)

Physical well-being is the one element in which Europe is slightly behind global numbers. In Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Croatia, 15 percent or less of the population is thriving in this element. Even in France, with its universal healthcare system and high life expectancy, only 15 percent of residents are thriving in physical well-being.

The impact of the global recession is still being felt in the region, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, where unemployment is still high. Naturally, this will affect financial well-being, and we see low percentages of residents thriving in this element in countries such as Greece (11 percent), Serbia (12 percent), Bosnia-Herzegovina (13 percent) and Romania (15 percent).

The weak job market also impacts the purpose element of well-being, since this element centers on liking what you do each day. In Southern and Eastern European countries such as Albania, Croatia and Greece, where unemployment remains in the double digits, residents are much less likely to be thriving in this element (7 percent to 8 percent) than those in Western European nations such as Denmark (45 percent), Austria (36 percent) and Sweden (33 percent), where unemployment rates are much lower.

To learn more about well-being in Europe, you can replay our webinar “Measuring Matters: Insights on Europe from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index”. You can also download our State of Global Well-Being Report, which has details on Europe and much more.