Want greater wellbeing? Say hi to your neighbors, poll says

WASHINGTON — If you want greater wellbeing, saying hello to your neighbors can help get you there, according to a new poll.

Adults in the U.S. who regularly say hello to multiple people in their neighborhood have higher wellbeing than those who greet fewer or no neighbors, according to a new Gallup poll.

“Americans’ wellbeing score increases steadily by the number of neighbors greeted, from 51.5 among those saying hello to zero neighbors to 64.1 for those greeting six neighbors,” the poll found. No meaningful increase in wellbeing is seen for additional neighbors greeted beyond six.

Also notably, the poll found that young adults, or people under 30, don’t greet their neighbors nearly as much as people aged 65 or older.

The results were collected as part of the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, which is calculated on a scale of zero to 100, where zero represents the lowest possible wellbeing and 100 represents the highest possible wellbeing. The Well-Being Index score for the nation comprises metrics affecting overall wellbeing and each of the five essential elements of wellbeing:

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

These findings, from a poll conducted May 30-June 6, 2023, are based on 4,556 U.S. adults surveyed by web as part of the Gallup Panel, a probability-based panel of about 100,000 adults across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The poll found that all five elements of wellbeing correspond with greeting neighbors. 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.

“As with the Well-Being Index itself, social, community, career and physical wellbeing peak at greeting six neighbors, while financial wellbeing hits its numeric high point at 11 to 15 such interactions,” according to Gallup.

Financial and community wellbeing -- followed by social -- are most closely associated with saying hello to neighbors, with the largest gaps in scoring between greeting zero people and greeting six, according to Gallup.

The poll found that greeting neighbors is more common among older, higher-income adults.

Americans report saying hello on a regular basis to five neighbors, on average, with 27% reporting greeting six or more.

However, this varies considerably by age.

Young adults (those under 30) say hello to an average of 2.9 neighbors, compared with 6.5 among those aged 65 or older, the poll found.

About one in seven among those under 30 (14%) greet six or more neighbors, compared with 41% of those aged 65 and older.

Having children under 18 in the household marginally improves the chances of greeting neighbors, as does having an annual household income of $120,000 or more.

In addition to the correlation between greeting neighbors and personal wellbeing, the study found a strong connection between Gallup’s Life Evaluation Index and neighborly relations.

The chance of being categorized as “thriving” in Gallup’s overall life ratings 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, according to Gallup. At this point, however, no further gains are found among those who greet greater numbers of people.

For its Life Evaluation Index, Gallup classifies Americans as “thriving,” “struggling” or “suffering” according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from zero to 10, based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, according to Gallup. Those who rate their current life a 7 or higher and their anticipated life in five years an 8 or higher are classified as thriving. Just over half (51.2%) are thriving, based on the most recent Gallup estimates.

Social wellbeing, to which greeting neighbors is certainly related, has been linked to faster healing, reduced stress and better engagement at work, according to Gallup. Recent Gallup research in partnership with Meta 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.

At a minimum, knowing how many neighbors someone greets on a routine basis appears to be a useful marker of their personal wellbeing, Gallup found.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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