Could it be time to move to Hawaii? In a new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the southernmost state nabbed the number one spot for well-being for the sixth time since 2008. Alaska, which has ranked in the top two spots for three consecutive years, followed. West Virginia and Kentucky residents had the lowest and second-lowest well-being, respectively, for the eighth year in a row.
Data over the years suggests that well-being follows a regional pattern. Outside of Hawaii and Alaska, the states with the highest scores are located in the Northern Plains and the Mountain West. The states with the lowest quality of life are consistently states in the South and the industrial Midwest.
The rankings, based on polls of more than 177,000 adults across the country throughout 2016, measure five categories: purpose in life (job satisfaction and motivation), social connections, financial stability, community relations, and physical health. Each score is then combined and calculated on a scale of zero to 100, 100 being the highest possible score and the greatest level of well-being.
Despite the popular narrative that 2016 was a terrible year nationwide, overall well-being across the country increased to 62.1 in 2016, up from the nationwide score of 61.7 in 2015 and 61.6 in 2014. Additionally, the percentage of Americans considered to be “thriving” reached a record high of 55.4 percent.
While many indicators of nationwide well-being are improving, Gallup reported that Americans’ assessments of their own health have worsened, and rates of obesity, diabetes, and depression are increasing. The release encourages state lawmakers and communities to invest in infrastructure and programming that promotes healthy living.
States With 10 Highest Well-Being Scores:
3. South Dakota
States With 10 Lowest Well-Being Scores:
1. West Virginia
9. Rhode Island