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Saying Hello and Wellbeing

by | Jun 9, 2024 | CST Articles | 0 comments

Adults in the U.S. who regularly say hello to multiple people in their neighborhood have higher well-being than those who greet fewer or no neighbors.

These results were collected as part of Well-Being Index score for the nation which comprises metrics affecting overall well-being and each of the five essential elements of well-being:

  • Engagement well-being: You like what you do every day.
  • Social well-being: You have meaningful friendships in your life.
  • Financial well-being: You manage your money well.
  • Physical well-being: You have energy to get things done.
  • Community well-being: You like where you live.

Not only is a person’s overall Well-Being Index score closely related to the number of neighbors they regularly greet, but the pattern is also seen across all five elements of the index.

Americans report saying hello on a regular basis to five neighbors, on average, with 27% reporting greeting six or more. This varies substantially by age, however. Young adults (those under 30) say hello to an average of 2.9 neighbors, compared with 6.5 among those aged 65 or older. About one in seven among those under 30 (14%) greet six or more neighbors, compared with 41% of those aged 65 and older.

The chance of being categorized as “thriving” increases from just 38.1% among those who regularly say hello to zero people in their neighborhood to 60.5% among those who say hello to five. At this point, however, no further gains are found among those who greet greater numbers of people.

Social well-being, to which greeting neighbors is certainly related, has been linked to faster healing, reduced stress, and better engagement at work. Recent Gallup research has shown that the U.S. compares favorably with other nations around the world in social interactions, with those in the U.S. more likely than those in countries such as Mexico, India, and France to interact with the people who live near them.

Social interactions also do not necessarily yield the same well-being outcomes for all people. For example, prior Gallup research has shown that older adults receive a boost in their mood with less social time than what is found among young adults, reaching a near-optimal point at just three hours of social time with friends or family per day, compared with seven hours for those younger than 30. As we age, social interactions typically become more limited, but with those opportunities tending to yield bigger boosts of happiness and enjoyment, it may help to explain why those 65 and older are investing in neighborly relationships at higher rates than younger adults.

At a minimum, knowing how many neighbors someone greets on a routine basis appears to be a useful marker of their personal well-being.