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Are you happy and healthy in your state of residence?

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, physical health, mental health

Much variety exists among our 50 states and residents of those states express various degrees of satisfaction with where they live. On February 28, Gallup, the well-known pollster, released its latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The research and methodology underlying the Well-Being Index is based on the World Health Organization definition of health as: not only the absence of infirmity and disease but also a state of physical, mental, and social wellbeing. Research for the Well-Being Index began in January 2008, and surveys 1,000 Americans every day. An update is released each year. The results of the latest survey are based on telephone interviews conducted from January 1 to through December 31, 2012, with a random sample of 353,564 Americans, ages 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.

Gallup notes that its partnership with Healthways provides a new national daily pulse of individual and collective health and wellbeing, as well as solutions for a healthy America. The report notes that the projected cost of American healthcare by 2017 has been estimated at more than $4 trillion. At least 50% of these costs will be due to preventable disease, including diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and strokes. It adds that the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index will be the largest collection of data related to the health and wellbeing of large populations ever assembled. This information will lead community leaders, policy makers, and employers to make decisions positively affecting the health and wellbeing of millions of people.

Gallup notes that the Well-Being Index is designed to be the Dow Jones of health, giving a daily measure of individual’s wellbeing at the close of every day. With a daily measure, determining the correlation between the places where people work and the communities in which they live, and how it impacts their wellbeing, is now possible. Additionally, the index will increase an understanding of how those factors impact the financial health of corporations and communities. To determine state well-being, Gallup relied on six measures: life evaluation (self-evaluation about one’s present life situation and anticipated one in five years); emotional health; work environment (such as job satisfaction); physical health; healthy behavior; and basic access (access to healthcare, a doctor, a safe place to exercise and walk, and community satisfaction).

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And now for the results! Hawaii is a popular vacation destination that many equate with a tropical paradise—including the residents. Gallup found the Hawaiians to be the happiest people in the nation. Hawaiians were the most likely to say they smiled or laughed a lot the day before the survey, and the least likely to report daily worry or stress (emotional health). They also had the most positive workplace environments. In contrast, Rhode Islanders indicated having the worst work environments. West Virginia is dubbed the “Mountain State” because of its terrain. West Virginians boast that they come from sturdy stock; however, Gallup found them to be the least happy populace in the US. West Virginians were the least likely to say they were thriving and the most likely to report depression; they also had the lowest emotional health and physical health, all of which kept the state at the very bottom of the well-being list. In contrast, Colorado was rated tops on the physical health index, partly due to the state having the lowest percentage of obese residents in the nation. United States. In regard to healthy behaviors, Vermont was the home to individuals with the healthiest behaviors, including eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four times a week. Kentucky was found to be the national leader in unhealthy behaviors, with the lowest percentage of residents indicating they ate healthy all day “yesterday.” With the highest percentage of residents having health insurance, Massachusetts ranked highest for access to basic necessities. Mississippi scored the worst in this regard.

Between 2008 and 2012, the nation’s overall well-being has remained relatively constant; the most recent score of 66.7 compared with 2011’s 66.2. Gallup officals noted in a statement, “The lack of progress among the states with the lowest well-being scores may be related to low household income levels in these states. Nearly all of the states with the lowest wellbeing scores in 2012 are also states with the lowest median household incomes.”

Overall well-being scores range from 0 to 100, where 100 represents ideal well-being. The stats, based on a possible 100 points:

Hawaii: 71.1
Colorado: 69.7
Minnesota: 68.9
Utah: 68.8
Vermont: 68.6
Nebraska: 68.5
Montana: 68.5
New Hampshire: 68.4
Iowa: 68.1
Massachusetts: 68.1
South Dakota: 68.0
Maryland: 68.0
Wyoming: 67.9
Washington: 67.7
Virginia: 67.7
Kansas: 67.7
Connecticut: 67.6
North Dakota: 67.4
California: 67.4
Wisconsin: 67.3
Maine: 67.3
Oregon: 67.1
Idaho: 67.1
Arizona: 67.1
New Mexico: 66.7 (Note: New Mexico matches the nation’s overall well-being score of 66.7)
Texas: 66.6
Illinois: 66.6
Delaware: 66.6
Pennsylvania: 66.5
New York: 66.2
New Jersey: 66.1
Georgia: 66.1
Alaska: 66.1
Florida: 65.8
North Carolina: 65.7
Michigan: 65.6
Rhode Island: 65.5
Missouri: 65.5
South Carolina: 65.2
Oklahoma: 65.2
Nevada: 65.2
Indiana: 65.1
Louisiana: 64.7
Ohio: 64.6
Alabama: 64.2
Arkansas: 64.1
Tennessee: 64.0
Mississippi: 63.6
Kentucky: 62.7
West Virginia: 61.3

Reference: Gallup