Utah Tops Survey of Well-Being in U.S.
Hawaii and Wyoming Residents Also Say They're Happy; West Virginia Ranks Last
March 11, 2009 -- No wonder Gallup's pollsters rank Utah No. 1 in the nation
in terms of its residents' feelings of well-being. They must talk to lots of
people like George W. Marlow.
"It's beautiful," says Marlow, 60, a transplant from Georgia.
"It's easy to be physically fit. The people are real friendly. Everywhere
you look, it's like a gorgeous painting. The only problem is -- the secret is
Marlow spoke by cell phone as he stood atop a ski slope 20 miles from his
condo in Salt Lake City. His comments came just after the Gallup polling
organization, in partnership with Healthways and America's Health Insurance
Plans, released a state-by-state "well-being" survey -- a look at how
residents feel about physical, mental, and emotional health, among other
Utah scored 69.2 (out of a possible 100), compared to a national average of
65.5. It was followed on the top 10 list by Hawaii, Wyoming, Colorado,
Minnesota, Maryland, Washington, Massachusetts, California, and Arizona.
West Virginia ranked last in well-being with a score of 61.2.
The survey involved more than 350,000 interviews of people 18 and older
during 2008. Participants were asked dozens of questions, including whether
they laughed the day before the survey, whether they ate a healthy diet, and
how much access they had to health care and exercise facilities.
Healthways' Melissa Gibbs says the well-being index measures "life
evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work
environment, and basic access." Basic access includes categories such as
health care, food, shelter, clean water, and safety.
Utah ranked second in life evaluation, first in work quality, eighth in
basic access to such things as health care, 13th in healthy behavior, seventh
in physical health, and 10th in emotional health.
Regionally, the highest well-being scores were registered in the West; the
lowest were in the Midwest and the South.
Jim Harter, PhD, Gallup's chief scientist for workplace management, says the
survey questions explore exercise and eating habits, access to basic
necessities, and work environment.
"Utah is pretty strong across the board in how they evaluate their
lives," Harter tells WebMD. "We asked about their day, whether they
worried, about stress and sadness, disease, whether they smoked, exercised
regularly, and a couple questions about diet."
People also were asked about general levels of life satisfaction, whether
they were "able to use their strengths at work, about food, and
shelter," Harter says.
William Custer, director of the Center for Health Services Research at
Georgia State University, who tracks health conditions nationwide, says Utah is
"a healthy state and that may affect their top ranking."
But Utah residents, according to Georgia State University data, have low
access to health care relative to people in most states "because they are
so rural," Custer tells WebMD.