America’s Well-Being

After our discussions on the various components that contribute to an individual’s well-being, when I came across “Mapping the Nation’s Well-Being” on the NY Times website, I was curious to check it out.  The interactive map of the United States colorfully displays the results of a phone survey regarding American citizens’ views on different aspects of life.  While the researchers covered most of the six dimensions we have defined in class, there are limitations to this study.  For example, because it was a phone survey, participants have to own a phone, which means that this survey leaves out various groups, such as the homeless population and people who cannot afford a phone.  The sample who participated in this survey may not be entirely representative of the nation as a whole, so the results cannot be generalized.

While there are limitations to this study, several trends can be seen among the various entities of well-being.  The southern portion of the United States, especially the southeast, typically answered more negatively.  These individuals were more likely to express health problems, such as higher rates of diabetes, greater percentage of the population reporting obesity, and more reports of high cholesterol.  This region also indicated lower percentage of health insurance coverage.  Whether poor health status results from lack of insurance or lack of insurance worsens an already present condition, the two are correlated.

Other aspects that appeared to be lacking in the southern region were personal security and self-determination.  The map shows that inadequate food, inadequate shelter, and nighttime safety were issues reported at a greater rate in the south over the northern U.S.  These basic resources are crucial not only for people to prosper but for them to survive.  Without adequate amounts of these necessities, the dimensions of well-being will be insufficient.  If an individual does not have enough food, he or she may become malnourished, which can lead to various health problems.  The interdependency of the dimensions creates a complex system that requires effortful maintenance.

As I noted above, there are some limitations to this study, but the trends seen on the map indicate that there is variability of basic needs within our country.  These types of trends are what need to be acknowledged for effective change to be made.  If one region is lacking in food, affordable health care services, or other resources, then the efforts to gain sufficiency should be tailored to the needs of that community.  This map may not necessarily be representative of the entire U.S. population, but I thought it was an interesting visual based on what we have been discussing.

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