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    Survey Reveals the Nation's Happiest States

    Well-Being Index Rates the Emotional and Physical Health of Americans
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    March 8, 2011 -- People in Hawaii apparently feel they have a lot to laugh and smile about. That state ranks highest in the country in a rating of emotional health, helping it achieve the top rating for overall well-being in the U.S., according to a new survey.

    Hawaii scored highest in three of six sub-indexes that make up the 2010 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index: emotional health, which includes smiling, happiness, and laughter; life evaluation, or an expectation of good times for the next five years; and physical health, which includes daily energy and feeling well-rested.

    West Virginia came in dead last based on scores on the same three sub-indexes.

    Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama, along with West Virginia, made up the states with the lowest well-being scores.

    Nevada, which is influenced by economic hard times, is the only state in the West in the same low range.

    In the survey, a score of 100 represents an ideal condition of well-being. For the nation as a whole, the score was far below that ideal -- 66.8.

    States With Highest and Lowest Scores

    The top states in the Well-Being Index, and their scores, are:

    • Hawaii 71
    • Wyoming 69.2
    • North Dakota 68.4
    • Alaska 68.3
    • Colorado 68
    • Minnesota 68
    • South Dakota 68
    • Utah 67.9
    • Connecticut 67.9
    • Nebraska 67.8
    • Massachusetts 67.8

    The states with the lowest scores are:

    • Michigan 64.6
    • Louisiana 64.3
    • Delaware 64.2
    • Nevada 64.2
    • Ohio 63.8
    • Alabama 63.7
    • Arkansas 63.7
    • Mississippi 63
    • Kentucky 61.9
    • West Virginia 61.7

    Calculating Well-Being Scores

    Categories that make up the overall index include life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and basic access. Gallup-Healthways says interviews were conducted in 2010 with a random sample of 352,840 adults living in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C.

    The questions were wide ranging. For emotional health, for instance, questions were asked about laughter frequency, whether respondents were treated with respect, and whether they reported such things as sadness, anger, stress, and depression.

    To arrive at a life evaluation score, people were asked about their current life situations and their expectations for the next five years.

    For other categories people were asked about health problems, days taken off from work due to illness, whether they smoked or ate fruits and vegetables, and whether they had access to adequate medical care.

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