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The happiest, healthiest state in the US is…

New report measures how Americans feel about their health, friends, finances, community and sense of purpose. Which state was tops?
/ Source: TODAY

Say “Aloha” to the good life if you’re lucky enough to be able to move to Hawaii.

People who live in the postcard-beautiful state have the highest overall well-being in the U.S., according to the 2015 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released on Thursday. The report measures how Americans feel about their physical health, social connections, finances, community and sense of purpose.

Maui, Hawaii
Waves break on the rocks on a sunny day on the Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii.DonLand / Shutterstock

The islands took the top spot for the fifth time since the annual state rankings began eight years ago.

“It’s not ever a shock to see Hawaii high (on the list),” Dan Witters, principal research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, told TODAY.

“Hawaiians rate their lives pretty high… things like enjoyment, smiling and laughter and happiness are all very high in Hawaii. And stress is very low.”

Hawaii has the lowest depression rate and the best exercise rate in the nation, Witters said. Very few people who live there are obese or smoke — a good formula for good health.

Alaska, last year’s overall well-being champ, fell to second place.

The top five states for overall well-being are:

1. Hawaii

2. Alaska

3. Montana

4. Colorado

5. Wyoming

Related: Adult happiness declines, while teen contentment grows

On the opposite side of the spectrum, West Virginia was at the bottom of the list, coming in 50th for the seventh year in a row, Witters said.

“West Virginia is a low well-being place,” he noted. “They experience a lot of sadness, a lot of worry, a lot of stress on any given day.”

Residents there reported some of the worst rates in the nation for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, physical pain and heart attacks. The state’s obesity rate was the highest in the U.S., at 37 percent, while its exercise rate was the lowest.

The five states at the bottom of the list are:

50. West Virginia

49. Kentucky

48. Oklahoma

47. Ohio

46. Indiana

The index is based on interviews with more than 177,000 Americans over the past year. Here are some of the report’s other key findings:

Americans evaluated their lives overall better in 2015 than in any other year

The researchers asked people to imagine a ladder with 10 rungs, where the top rung is best possible life, and bottom is the worst possible life. Where are you on that ladder?

The results were the highest since the index began. The number of people considered to be “thriving” is now at 55 percent, compared to barely over 40 percent during the Great Recession.

The state with the least stress is…

South Dakota.

“One of the things we find fairly consistently in the Northern Plains and Mountain West is stress levels are lower. Daily sadness and worry tends to be lower. People don’t carry around a lot of emotional baggage on a day to day basis,” Witters said.

Find bliss in the Centennial State

Besides Hawaii, Colorado is the only other state to finish in the top 10 in all eight years of the index’s rankings.

Residents there take good care of themselves and exercise a lot, Witters noted. Coloradans also report good community well-being, so they feel good about where they live, he added.

Related: Retirement boosts happiness, improves health, study finds

Beautiful surroundings don’t always translate into high well-being

Many states that historically rank high on the list don’t necessarily have gorgeous scenery or year-round warm weather, like Hawaii.

The local culture and how people feel about their communities play bigger roles in well-being than the physical beauty of a state, Witters said.

The big movers on the list are…

Arizona broke into top 10 for the first time.

Florida was at No. 12, its best finish so far.

Alabama, which has historically placed at the bottom of the list, improved to the middle of the pack.

Vermont had the biggest drop year-over year, tumbling from No. 13 to No. 29, its worst showing so far.

Americans continue to kick the habit

The rate of smoking among U.S. adults dropped to 18.5 percent in 2015, the lowest since Gallup started tracking this metric in the 1950s. Utah has lowest smoking rate at 9 percent.

But obesity continues to rise

The obesity rate, which came in at 28 percent, “has been going up relentlessly” since the index started, Witters said.

“It’s a big problem and it’s not a problem that’s going away or getting better,” he noted.

Hawaii and Colorado have the lowest obesity rates — under 20 percent in each state.

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