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The First Step in Increasing Wellbeing Is Measuring It

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A new collaboration between Gallup and Magellan Health seeks to empower people to increase their wellbeing.

It’s not news that negative emotions are on the rise. “Gallup has been tracking global trends for quite some time, and we’re seeing that the percentage of people who are thriving in their overall lives is just 29 percent,” says Dr. Jim Harter. “So, about 70 percent are either struggling or suffering in their overall lives.”

Negative emotions not only impact our mental health, but they’ve also been shown to have an impact on our physical health as well. That makes increasing wellbeing and reducing negative emotions like anger, stress, and anxiety a priority.

The Wellbeing Project

Gallup has partnered with Magellan Health to create the Wellbeing Project, which combines deep research data with healthcare solutions designed to personalize the approach to mental health.

“Gallup has been studying human behavior through global analytics for the past 80 years,” notes Harter. “And Magellan has been developing huge expertise in behavioral health for over 50 years. We decided to combine forces because we felt that together our organizations could do a lot more than either one alone.”

The unique approach taken by the Wellbeing Project starts with research. Gallup has conducted global surveys and has identified five core “dimensions” of wellbeing: career, social, financial, physical, and community. Magellan Health then added a sixth element around emotional wellbeing.

“For each of these dimensions, we can measure both high energy and points of pain,” explains Harter. “There’s thriving and suffering in each one.”

It’s important to note that these dimensions interact with and affect each other. “We found that when wellbeing drops for people, it tends to be the result of not just one thing going wrong,” Harter notes. “People are pretty resilient to one thing going wrong — it’s usually compounding effects. And in the past couple of years, we’ve had a lot of compounding effects coming at us. So, keeping your eye on all elements and how they affect one another can have a big impact on whether people have a chance to continue thriving during tough times.”

Measurement is key

What makes the Wellbeing Project unique is its focus on real data and actionable insights. “We need to first understand what dimensions we can measure,” Harter explains, “and whether we can act on them to increase the likelihood that we’re thriving in our overall lives, having more good days and less of those negative emotions. We have to get ahead of it by helping people measure what matters the most and give them some insights into how they can improve their overall lives. That’s one side. The other part is to make it personalized.”

To that end, the Wellbeing Project is leveraging Magellan Health’s millions of members to create what Harter describes as “probably the largest wellbeing study that’s ever been done.” Ultimately, he hopes the evolving data will help organizations develop and support a “thriving culture.”

“A thriving culture will be one of the most sought-after characteristics of organizations,” Harter asserts.  “An authentic culture where people come to work and their lives get better, in addition to being productive, creates an employment brand that will attract people.”

Knowledge is power, and Harter believes the secret is combining data with self-awareness of strengths. “Get the starting point right,” he advises. “We don’t have to pursue the same solutions that other people are using. Take a step back and say, ‘Here’s who I am individually, here’s what I lead with, here’s what I’m best at,’ and aim that at improving your career, social, financial, physical, community, and emotional wellbeing. I think we have a better chance of being resilient and thriving if we do that.”

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