Daily Cup of Wellness

People like to be happy, and they like to be healthy. Given that the two go hand in hand, it is no surprise that they are often measured together. So if you are looking to move, it makes sense to aim to land in a state that is known for making its residents happy rather than being filled with people who are miserable. There are, however, 50 options to choose from. Which of them is the happiest state according to Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Aloha State takes home the crown when it comes to the happiest and healthiest residents. The rest of the top five, however, was filled out by states that are very different from Hawaii’s sunny beaches. Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Utah were states two through five. All of them are mountainous and tend to have cold, snowy winters. Interestingly, none of the sunny southern states made the top 10. Both Dakotas, however, broke into the top 10 as did Colorado. The most southern state in the top 10 was Delaware.

This is relatively normal for this particular poll. According to the study, “The Northern Plains and Mountain West are higher wellbeing areas, along with some Western states and pockets of the Northeast and Atlantic. The lowest wellbeing states are concentrated in the South and extend northward through the industrial Midwest.”

When ranking the states, the Gallup poll used five main markers: career, enjoying one’s job and being motivated to achieve their goals; social, having supportive relationships; financial, managing economic responsibilities to reduce stress and increased security; community, liking and feeling safe in one’s living environment as well as having pride in one’s community; and physical, having good health and enough energy to get things done each day.

It is this last component that has consistently dragged down West Virginia, the state that has consistently ranked in the bottom five. “It’s the same story that we’ve seen in the past,” said Dan Witters, the research director of the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index. “Your eyeballs just about fall out of their sockets when you look at the diabetes number. Their exercise, produce consumption and eating habits are all near the bottom of the nation… They have a lot of work to do from a well-being perspective.”

Unfortunately, the numbers show that most of America has work to do from a well-being perspective. The overall well-being index across states has been falling each year. The declines were not as sharp this past year, but they were still noticeable. Social and career scores dropped the most, while community and financial scores fell smaller amounts. The good news, however, is that America is at least trying to increase her well-being. The physical score for American’s well-being improved noticeably in the last year with a jump from 60.5 to 61.0, an increase nearly large enough to offset the decrease in all other categories. Hopefully, future years will see similar jumps in the other categories as Americans become, overall, healthier and happier in equal measure.