Individual Well-Being

Many factors identified in the four Action Areas contribute to how people view their overall health and well-being, including the fulfillment of basic needs like housing, education, employment, and income, as well as physical and emotional needs like health, safety, work-life balance, and life satisfaction. Meeting people's emotional needs, such as life satisfaction and work-life balance, is also associated with better health-related quality of life.

Analysis of data from the OECD Better Life Index, for example, showed that, on a scale of 1–10 (with 10 being the highest life satisfaction), U.S. residents aged 15 years and older report an average of 6.9 during the period 2015-2017, notably steady since the last reporting of 2014-2016. However, when we break that number down across diverse populations, it is clear that while some people are experiencing well-being, others are struggling.

SOURCE: Better Life Index, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2015-2017

METHODS NOTE: OECD reported a one-year average life satisfaction score for each country until 2013. For the most recently reported scores, OECD transitioned to reporting a three-year average (2014-2016, 2015-2017).

  • AVERAGE LIFE SATISFACTION SCORE AMONG ADULTS (15+ YEARS), BY COUNTRY

  • PERCENT OF ADULTS (15+ YEARS) REPORTING HAVING GOOD OR VERY GOOD HEALTH, BY COUNTRY

  • PERCENT OF EMPLOYEES WORKING VERY LONG HOURS, BY COUNTRY

Incarceration

Incarceration negatively impacts the health of not only prisoners, but also their families and communities. Prisoners are in poorer health than the general U.S. population, and ex-prisoners returning to communities often bring a host of unmet health needs.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2018, there were an estimated 1,414,162 U.S. sentenced prisoners (down from 1,459,533 at the end of 2016) under the jurisdiction of state and federal correctional authorities. This corresponds to a rate of 0.43% of the total U.S. population in prison, still the largest prison population in the world. Among sentenced prisoners, 56% are Black or Hispanic/Latinx, down 1% from 2016 but similar to 2017. The jail incarceration rate at midyear 2018 was 226 inmates per every 100,000 U.S. residents, the same as 2015. Overall, however, the total number and numbers of male, white, and black sentenced prisoners have been decreasing since 2006 (data since 2017 shown).

A reduction in the number of people incarcerated could lead to better health outcomes for individuals and communities across populations. Reducing incarceration has strong implications for improving equity, as minorities are disproportionately likely to be arrested, convicted, and face harsher sentences. A decrease in incarceration rates may also reflect overall improvements in community conditions, such as poverty reduction, access to health services, and fair educational opportunities.

SOURCE: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2018

  • NUMBER OF SENTENCED PRISONERS IN THE U.S., by gender and race/ethnicity

  • NUMBER OF JAIL INMATES IN THE U.S., by gender and race/ethnicity