Gallup’s global Well-Being Index. Great data, shame about the (lack of) analysis.

September 19, 2014

     By Duncan Green     

Gallup has just published its Global Well-Being Index, based on a survey of 134,000 adults in 135 countries – i.e. a big exercise. The methodology is rigorous, presided over by Angus Deaton, who also contributes a glowing foreword. The index includes five elements of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community, and physical. Here’s what it finds for the BRICS, for example (headline message, it’s great to be Brazilian, though this survey was conducted before the World Cup):

BRICS wellbeing

This is a huge treasure trove of data. Shame then, that the write-up is pretty dull – as far as I can see, just a lot of fairly superficial number crunching with little in the way of interesting analysis or conclusions. Example: rich/health people tend to report higher levels of wellbeing than poor/undereducated ones – hold the front page.

The attempts to explain their finding don’t really go past a series of regional stereotypes and circular arguments: ‘That so many people are reporting positive emotions and higher well-being in Latin America at least partly reflects the cultural tendency in the region to focus on the positives in life.’  Asia’s low scores ‘may partly result from cultural norms as well as from lower development, work environment, and economic issues that affect the wellbeing of respondents in Asia.’ Oh dear.

So in a spirit of ‘where is the knowledge we have lost in information’, here are some of the results.

Global map – headline message: let’s all move to the Americas

global well being map

Highest well-being countries – headline message: what are they smoking in Panama?

highes well being countries

Lowest well-being countries – headline message: it’s horrible being Syrian – who would have thought it?

lowest well being countriesI’m actually rather disappointed by this – I’m a big fan of measuring well-being, (for example the work of Katherine Trebeck, the OECD and even, previously, of Gallup) and have been covering it on this blog for years. I can’t believe that this much data tells us so little of interest – surely some decent political analysis would have produced some more interesting interpretations? Still, maybe others will now start trawling through the numbers and come up with something more interesting.



September 19, 2014
Duncan Green