Take a place where the residents enjoy warm relationships, like what they do each day, love their surroundings and are inspired to treat their bodies right. It must be paradise.
No wonder Hawaii fits the bill.
The Aloha State once again takes over the No. 1 spot on the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index released on Wednesday — the seventh time it has topped the list since the rankings began in 2008. States are graded on how their residents feel about their physical health, careers, relationships, finances and communities.
Hawaii and Colorado, which was in 6th place this year, are the only two states to be included in the top 10 every year.
Top 5 happiest states:
Hawaii may seem like a no-brainer, but surprisingly, it’s not about the warm weather and gorgeous scenery. Research shows there’s not much of a relationship between those factors and overall well-being, said Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index.
“So while at first blush, it seems intuitive — ‘Of course, it’s Hawaii’ — the way that we measure well-being doesn’t necessarily give Hawaii a leg up on the other states just as a function of where it’s located and the year-round outdoor weather,” Witters told TODAY.
“It comes down to who lives there and what kind of culture do you have… ‘This is the way we do things around here.’”
The physical well-being of Hawaii residents is “terrific” and they love where they live, Witters said. But the state’s biggest strengths are actually social well-being — enjoying strong relationships with friends and loved ones; career well-being — liking what you do each day; and financial health — which is more about being able to live within your means rather than how much money you make.
Besides Hawaii and Colorado, Alaska is another frequent fixture at the top of the list.
“They do a really good job taking care of themselves,” Witters said, noting that Alaska is No. 1 in the nation when it comes to physical well-being. Almost 70 percent of residents there say they get at least 30 minutes of exercise three or more days a week.
The story is very different on the bottom of the list, where West Virginia once again stays in 50th place. The state has been dead last in the rankings every year except one — 2008, when Mississippi ranked lowest.
Top 5 unhappiest states:
50. West Virginia
When it comes to West Virginia, “it’s the same story that we’ve seen in the past,” Witters said. The rates of obesity, smoking, depression and physical pain are some of the highest in the nation. About one-fifth of residents report having diabetes.
“Your eyeballs just about fall out of their sockets when you look at the diabetes number,” he noted. “Their exercise, produce consumption and eating habits are all near the bottom of the nation… They have a lot of work to do from a well-being perspective.”
Overall, the report reveals Americans are all worse off when it comes to social and career well-being. When asked to consider statements such as “I get positive energy from family and friends,” “Relationships in my life are better than ever,” “I like what I do every day” and “I have a leader who gets me excited about the future,” fewer Americans now agree, Witters said.
He noted 18.5 percent of U.S. adults report they’ve been diagnosed with depression at some point in their life and about 13 percent say they currently have depression — all-time highs in Gallup’s research. Indeed, major depression is on the rise among Americans from all age groups, but especially among teens and young adults, health insurance data showed last year.