Health & Wellness

The happiest, healthiest city in the US is...

It has a Fifth Avenue, lots of shopping and a hot real estate market, but the country’s healthiest and happiest city is nowhere near the Big Apple.

Shutterstock / Jon Bilous
Sunset over the fishing pier and Gulf of Mexico in Naples, Florida.

Naples, Florida, and the nearby communities of Marco Island and Immokalee top the Gallup-Healthways State of American Well-Being: 2015 Community Rankings list released on Tuesday. The report measures how residents of 190 U.S. cities feel about their physical health, social ties, financial security, community and sense of purpose.

“Naples is a high well-being place,” Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, told TODAY. “People in Naples really like their communities.”

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Residents there have the lowest levels of stress in the country, report little depression and eat healthy on a daily basis, the report found. Many of them like their daily activities and enjoy an intellectually lively culture, telling interviewers they learn or do something interesting every day.

It doesn’t hurt that the city is affluent, Witters said. But while well-being goes up with income, it’s not beholden to it, he added.

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The top five U.S. communities with the highest well-being are:

1. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida

2. Salinas, California

3. North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton, Florida

4. Fort Collins, Colorado

5. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts

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When it comes to the bottom of the list, Charleston, West Virginia comes in dead last. Why did it rank so low?

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“Take your pick,” Witters said. “They don’t take very good care of themselves… It’s a low well-being place, as is West Virginia generally.” The state scored last in the 2015 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released last month.

Smoking is “through the roof” in Charleston, with 32 percent of adults there revealing they smoke — the highest rate in the nation, he noted. Many of the city’s residents are obese and seldom exercise. Many are depressed.

They also worry about money: food and health care insecurity is “crazy high,” with about a quarter of the city’s residents reporting they couldn’t afford food or a doctor’s visit in the last 12 months, Witters said.

The five communities at the bottom of the list are:

186. Chico, California

187. Huntington–Ashland, West Virginia–Kentucky–Ohio

188. Hickory–Lenoir–Morganton, North Carolina

189. Fort Smith, Arkansas–Oklahoma

190. Charleston, West Virginia

“These rankings — it’s never about picking on somebody. It’s never about trying to embarrass a community,” Witters said.

“What we are really hoping, and the reason we release these rankings, is that it serves as a call to action; that it lights a little fire under the toes of the communities that are low on the list.”

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The results are based on phone interviews with more than 353,000 Americans in 2014 and 2015.

Some more findings:

The big four

If you’re looking for a new city to call home, you may want to circle Florida, California, Colorado and Texas on your map. These four states account for 14 of the top 20 well-being communities in the report.

Happy in Honolulu

Honolulu has the fewest residents who have been diagnosed with depression during their lifetimes.

The city with the highest stress level is…

Bellingham, Washington. Some 53 percent of adults there report high levels of stress on any given day. In comparison, only 30 percent of adults in Naples say they're stressed out.

This story was originally published in February 2016. Follow A. Pawlowski on Google+ and Twitter.

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