Get the latest from TODAY
Raise a tropical drink to Hawaii, the state that’s consistently home to some of the healthiest, happiest Americans in the nation.
The beautiful islands once again grace the top of the Gallup-Healthways 2016 State Well-Being Rankings, released on Wednesday. It’s the sixth time in the nine-year existence of the report that the Aloha State has been at No. 1. Another separate recent study also awarded Hawaii the top spot.
“Hawaii has had a heck of a run,” Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, told TODAY.
“They do a lot of things right there. They take good care of themselves. They do the blocking and tackling of physical wellness really well.”
It’s not just about being happy by living in a scenic, warm place. The report measures how Americans feel about their physical health, social connections, finances, community and sense of purpose.
Hawaii residents report low obesity rates and little daily stress. They regularly exercise, eat lots of produce and feel safe where they live. They’re also the best in the nation for having enough money to do everything they need to do.
The top five states for overall well-being are:
3. South Dakota
Hawaii and Colorado are the only two states that have been in the top 10 since the rankings began. South Dakota also consistently keeps returning to the top dozen.
“If you ask people randomly nationally where South Dakota might rank in well-being, it might not be very high, but people inside of the state really do a nice job taking care of themselves, especially with community well-being and with financial well-being,” Witters noted.
Get the latest from TODAY
At the bottom of the list, West Virginia returns to last place for the eighth year in a row. The state’s obesity and smoking rates are “off the charts,” Witters said. The number of residents reporting they’ve had high blood pressure or diabetes in their lifetime is the highest in the nation.
West Virginia is also last when it comes to financial wellbeing, as well as purpose wellbeing — the category that asks: Do you get to do things that you like every day? Do you learn and grow?
“It’s a place that consistently, year after year, is on the low end of the wellbeing spectrum. We’d really like to see that get better for the sake of the residents who live there,” Witters said.
The five states at the bottom of the list are:
50. West Virginia
The index is based on interviews with more than 177,000 Americans over the past year. Here are some of the report’s other take-aways:
The number of Americans ‘thriving’ is at a peak...
The researchers ask respondents: Imagine a ladder with 10 rungs, with the top rung representing your best possible life and bottom rung the worst possible. Where do you place yourself today? Where will you be five years from now? The answers measure current life satisfaction and future life optimism.
People who rank their current situation as seven or higher; and their future as eight or higher are considered to be “thriving.” More than 55 percent fit into that category in 2016, the highest since the rankings began.
But chronic diseases are also at a peak
The national rates of obesity (28 percent), diabetes (11 percent), and depression (17 percent) are at their highest points since the rankings began.
“Obesity is the big one. It continues its relentless climb, it keeps muscling its way higher,” Witters said. “It is a real, bone fide health crisis in America. Diabetes gets dragged up with it, same thing with depression.”
Almost all of the highest obesity rates are in the South, the report notes. The nation's lowest obesity rate is Colorado, with people in the West reporting the highest rates of exercise.
Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who report eating healthy all day during the previous day is at a nine-year low, according to the report.
The state where people feel safest is...
That would be Wyoming, where 88 percent of residents said they always feel safe and secure. At the other end of the spectrum, Nevada ranks last in that category, with only 69 percent of residents feeling safe.
"Las Vegas drags down Nevada's state numbers in numerous ways, including this one," Witters said.
The most improved states are...
Residents of Maine, Florida and Idaho showed the biggest jumps in well-being over the past few years, with Maine particularly strong in the physical health category; Florida ranking high in social well-being — or having love in your life; and Idaho impressing with its high community rank — or liking where you live.