2017 Was an Epically Bad Year for Worker Well Being: Will 2018 Be Worse?

Greetings from Washington, D.C. where, today, snowflakes land on your Nation’s Capital’s newly blossomed Japanese Cherry Trees. What happened to Spring?

And, how about that Climate Change?

April 2018 is on track to be one of D.C.’s coldest Aprils on record — if not the coldest on record.

It feels as cold as hell, but that worn out saying also describes the nation’s current mood as expressed in the latest insights of our workforce’s well-being.

Polling firm Gallup, in partnership with Health and Wellness company Sharecare, reports that 2017 registered a big dip in its ongoing study of the well-being of typical Americans.

Actually, 2017 marked the lowest point in the study since 2008, when Gallup and Sharecare began tracking our collective well-being. From the report:

Out of a possible score of 100, the national Well-Being Index score dropped from 62.1 in 2016 to 61.5 in 2017, marking the largest year-over-year decline since the index began in 2008.

USA Today adds that:

The annual [Gallup-Sharecare] index ranks well-being based on five elements: Purpose (liking what you do and going after goals), social (having supportive relationships and love), financial (economic life reduces stress and increases security), community (liking where you live) and physical (having good health and energy).

Results of the study were based on findings gathered from telephone interviews with more than 160,400 adults.

More from the story:

[Study Research Director Dan] Witters said elements that declined the most were purpose and social. People reported more worry, little interest in doing things, depression symptoms and perceiving less “positive energy” from family and friends. Less people reported having a leader in their lives who makes them “enthusiastic about the future.” There was also a decline in people who said they are reaching their goals and happy with their standard of living.

Of particular interest to listeners of The Tightrope with Dan Smolen podcast is the impact that the loss of purpose and purposefulness has had on Americans. West Virginia, which has seen huge year-to-year decreases in employment, but also big spikes in per-capita opioid drug use, fell to dead last in the study’s ranking. But even the historically healthy and well engaged state population in neighboring Virginia saw its health and well-being ebb.

So, will our collective mood and sense of despair worsen in 2018? While the study provides no particular insight to that end, one may safely assume that American worker health and well-being will further regress. During 2017, our retirement accounts saw healthy gains; but already in 2018, our retirement accounts and other holdings have seen value drops of 10 percent or more.

And, more of us, especially college students, seek relief through medication prescribed to treat depression and anxiety.

Add to our anxieties looming trade wars with China and other nations, continued gun violence in schools and workplaces, a sense that our personal information on social media is not-so-private, and the unintended consequences of the President’s incessant tweets, and one can make book that 2018 will most definitely be a rougher and more turbulent ride than 2017.

Buckle your seatbelts!

We know that people in the workforce who do seek purposefulness look to achieve it most in their work assignments and social environments. Encouraging stressed out workers to escape the meaninglessless for meaningful work of their dreams will help to make our workforce physically and mentally healthier and happier, more loyal, and definitely more productive.

In upcoming episodes of The Tightrope with Dan Smolen podcast, we will help guide our listeners on a pathway to better and more meaningful work.

So, with great enthusiasm we know this: our best days lie ahead.

DAN SMOLEN is executive producer and host of the podcast, The Tightrope with Dan Smolen.

Photo credit: Despair, Getty Images, July 2, 2017.