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Improving Economy Boosts Americans' Health, Too

freedom-happiness-11061502 . / Credit: Deamstime

The improved U.S. economy and unemployment rate are not only helping Americans make ends meet, they're also making us feel better, according to the new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (WBI). Americans' overall well-being reached a seven-month high in January, driven by increased levels of optimism and healthy behavior.

The WBI life evaluation index, which measures optimism regarding current life and anticipated future life situations, the index number reached 50.1, its highest point since March 2011. Americans who told Gallup pollsters that they were thriving reached an eight-month high of 53.4 percent, while those who said they were suffering (3.3 percent) hit its lowest point since January 2011.

The healthy behaviors index, which measures lifestyle habits, improved to 63.3 in January, from 61 in December. Sixty-four percent of Americans reported that they ate "healthy all day yesterday" and 55.7 percent ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables four times in the last week. In addition, 49.1 percent said they exercised 30 minutes at least three days in the last week, the best January on record.

[Money Can't Buy Happiness, But This Can]

"We can see clearly from the WBI that as the economy and unemployment rates improve, so does the overall well-being of America," said Ben Leedle, Healthways president and CEO. "January’s results are a step in the right direction and reiterate that we must focus the nation’s efforts and resources on the many areas of well-being to improve the overall health of all people, which will also improve productivity while lowering health care costs."

Americans' emotional health has also improved. For the fifth month in a row, the emotional health index,a composite of daily experiences, showed respondents had less stress, worry and sadness than in the previous six months. In addition, a high number of Americans (92.6 percent) said they were "treated with respect a lot of the day yesterday." Such a response gives insights into how Americans feel and can carry over into areas such as engagement in their work and their productivity.

The physical health index, analyzing the nation’s physical health, improved to 77.1. The one anomaly in the improved WBI numbers was the work environment Index, which evaluates job satisfaction. Though it remained low and flat (47.6), it nonetheless reported that 80.1 percent of employees said their "supervisor always creates an environment that is trusting and open."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.