Every year, media organizations publish articles about "well-being"
indexes for various places in the United States. Well-being indexes, as
the name suggests, attempt to measure happiness and wellness among various
groups of Americans. These groups are usually categorized by where they
live, and wellness index articles often show lists rating cities or states
across the country.
Gallup, the famous polling organization, recently released a survey ranking
American cities for well-being of their residents. While the specific
results are certainly interesting, they are not the focus of this article.
What's interesting for purposes of this article are the factors that
make up well-being, and the implications for people who have suffered
First, physical health was a solid predictor for well-being. This probably
does not come as a shock to anyone. Unfortunately, seriously injured people
are in poor health by definition. While many respond with optimism and
determination to get better, many others struggle with depression, chronic
pain, and other things which drag down their quality of life.
Second, there is a high correlation between income and well-being. Again,
it's no surprise that high earners have higher rates of well-being,
while lower income earners have just the opposite. In fact, the Gallup
survey found a striking correlation: in America's happiest cities,
typical household income was well above the national median. In unhappy
cities, incomes were much lower than that median.
Of course, seriously injured people often deal with financial problems
as well. For example, an injured person may be the family's primary
breadwinner. They may lose the ability to work because of the medical
limitations resulting from their injuries. At the same time, they may
incur five or six-figure medical bills through no fault of their own.
A cascade of financial problems - sometimes even foreclosure or bankruptcy
- can descend on them quickly. This is true even for people who were used
to being prosperous all their adult lives.
Third, educational achievement appears to have a strong correlation with
well-being. Gallup's data showed that all the highest-ranked cities
had a higher than average percentage of population with college degrees.
Conversely, all the cities ranking lowest on the index had lower than
average proportions of college graduates. This third factor suggests that
seriously injured people might improve their circumstances through additional
education. This is just one more thing that seems like common sense.
However, seriously injured people who are already hurting financially usually
don't have the money to go back to school. It takes years to get many
degrees or certificates in technical fields, and many people can't
hold out that long. Even if they can, their physical or mental limitations
may make it difficult to concentrate, sit through exams, and perform other
tasks necessary for academic success.
To conclude, good health, stable finances, and education achievement are
highly correlated with health and well-being. Serious injury is a perfect
storm because it can destroy all those things at once.
We've seen enough articles telling us that people in Colorado are happier
than people in Mississippi. It's time to see more articles on how
injuries to the body affect well-being.