Largest Drop In U.S. Well-Being Since 2012 Hits Females Hardest

Executive Summary: XM Institute’s U.S. well-being index sees its most significant drop since tracking started in 2012. The largest decline occurred amongst older females, who feel much less financially secure.

As part of our ongoing consumer studies, we’ve been tracking attitudes of U.S. consumers for most of the past decade. To gauge the overall quality of life for the U.S. population, we created a well-being index (WBi) based on a few of those attitudinal elements. This year’s WBi shows the severe impact of COVID on U.S. well-being.

The WBi is an average of three measurements representing the percentage of U.S. adults (18 and older) who agree with these statements:

  • I am typically happy
  • I am healthy
  • I am financially secure

Overall Results: Decline Driven By Financial Concerns

We’ve been tracking the WBi since 2012, based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers. This year’s data comes from a study that we completed in May. As you can see in the figure below:

  • The WBi dropped 4.1 percentage-points between 2019 and 2020, the largest annual drop we’ve seen.
  • The WBi sank to 59.2%, the weakest level since 2012.
  • The happy and healthy components continued their steady decline since 2017.
  • The financially secure component dropped 6.7 percentage-points over the last year, by far the largest drop we’ve seen.

2005_WBi_Overview_v1

Age And Gender: Females See The Largest Drop

We examined the WBi by age and gender. The chart below shows that:

  • Across every age group, females experienced a larger decline than their male peers.
  • WBi dropped for just about every segment. The only group to improve are males between 35- and 44-years-old.
  • The most significant decline across all groups was with females between 45- and 64-years-old.
  • The largest gender gap is with 45- to 54-year-olds, where males’ WBi is 14 percentage-points higher than females’.

2005_WBi_Genderations_v1

Components: Older Females Much Less Financially Secure

We also analyzed the 2019 to 2020 change in WBi components of happy, healthy, and financially secure across age and gender. As you can see in the chart:

  • The three largest declines are in the financial security component for females, with drops of more than 20-percentage-points for females between 45- and 64-years-old.
  • The fourth largest decline, 16 percentage-points, is in the area of happiness for the youngest females.
  • The only area where males experience a double-digit decline is in the area of financial security for the oldest group.
  • Males who are between 35- and 44-years-old actually improved across all three components.
  • The largest gender gap in terms of the changes that males and females have experienced over the previous year is with 55- to 64-year-olds in the area of financial security, where females dropped 24 percentage-points more than their male peers.

2005_WBi_ComponentChanges_v1

Methodology

For those of you who are interested, here’s how we do the study:

  • Survey 10,000 U.S. consumers online through a third-party panel provider.
  • Set respondent quotas based on mirroring the U.S. census for age, income, gender, ethnicity, and region.
  • Ask consumers the degree to which they agree or disagree with the statements above, using a five-point Likert scale. 
  • For each of the three components (happy, healthy, financially secure), calculate the percentage of people who agree; the top two points on the scale. Then weight the responses based on the exact age/gender mix of the U.S. census.
  • To calculate the overall WBi, take the average of the three components.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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