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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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