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Mental, social, and physical well-being in New Hampshire, Oregon, and Washington, 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System: implications for public health research and practice related to Healthy People 2020 foundation health measures on well-being
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    Background

    Well-being is now accepted as one of four cross-cutting measures in gauging progress for Healthy People 2020. This shift to population indicators of well-being redresses notions of health that have focused on absence of illness (negative health) as a primary or sufficient indicator of positive functioning. The purpose of this study was to estimate mental, social, and physical well-being in three US states using new measures piloted on the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey System (BRFSS). Baseline estimates were provided for states overall, and within states for demographic subgroups, those with chronic health conditions or disabilities, and those with behavioral risk factors.

    Methods

    Ten validated questions designed to assess mental (e.g., satisfaction with life, satisfaction with life domains, happiness), physical (e.g., satisfaction with energy level), and social dimensions (e.g., frequency of social support) of well-being were selected with state input for inclusion on BRFSS. 18,622 individuals responded to the BRFSS surveys administered by New Hampshire (N = 3,139), Oregon (N = 2,289), and Washington (N = 13,194). Multivariate adjusted proportions of positive responses to well-being items were examined.

    Results

    After adjustment for confounders, about 67% of adults in these states had high levels of well-being, including >80% reporting experiencing happiness. Most adults were satisfied with their work, neighborhood, and education, but significant differences were seen in subgroups. Well-being differed by demographic characteristics such as marital status, health behaviors, chronic conditions, and disability status, with those who reported a disability and smokers consistently experiencing the worst well-being.

    Conclusions

    Well-being is accepted as one of four cross-cutting measures in gauging progress for Healthy People 2020. Well-being differs by important sociodemographic factors and health conditions (e.g., age, employment, smoking, disability status). These findings provide baseline estimates for the three states to use in gauging improvements in well-being and can serve as a model for other state-level or national surveillance systems. These findings also assist states in identifying vulnerable subgroups who may benefit from potential interventions such as those in the National Prevention Strategy that focus on enhancing well-being where such disparities exist.

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