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Sarasota tops list of major U.S. cities with highest well-being

by A. Pawlowski /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Big city living can be wonderful — or pretty miserable — depending on which metropolis you decide to call home.

Looking for some guidance?

Residents of Sarasota, Florida, and the surrounding communities of North Port and Bradenton, reported the highest levels of happiness among the country’s 100 biggest metro areas, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released this week.

 Sunset at the fishing pier in Sarasota, Florida. Shutterstock

The report is based on responses from more than 176,000 randomly-selected adults across 50 states and the District of Columbia. Researchers wanted to know: Do you like where you live? Are you in good health? Do you have love in your life? Do you like what you do each day? Can you make ends meet?

Like Sarasota, some of the top raking cities in the index have a warm climate and a scenic setting. But those attractive features don’t always play a role in happiness, one of the report’s authors told TODAY.

Read more: 10 basic rules for a happier life — and most may surprise you

“If you’re looking for a single underlying factor — outside of easy on the eyes or year-round outdoor weather— you probably would point to a culture of well-being,” said Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

“Culture is something that’s hard to scientifically measure, but it’s very real and significant.”

Here are the top 10 cities on the list:

  1. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
  2. Honolulu, Hawaii
  3. Raleigh, North Carolina
  4. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California
  5. El Paso, Texas
  6. Austin-Round Rock, Texas
  7. Provo-Orem, Utah
  8. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
  9. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria
  10. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Residents of cities that were highly ranked had certain things in common: They exercised more often, were much less likely to be obese, had fewer health problems and felt safe where they lived.

They were also more likely to live within their means and manage their money effectively. They consistently told researchers they learned new and interesting things – through work or in other ways -- every day, an important psychological need, Witters said.

“That’s one reason why college towns or cities that have a heavy academic presence tend to score high in well-being,” he added.

At the other end of the spectrum, these 10 communities were at the bottom of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index:

  1. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pennsylvania
  2. Toledo, Ohio
  3. Knoxville, Tennessee
  4. Dayton, Ohio
  5. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana
  6. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Florida
  7. Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton, Pennsylvania
  8. Columbus, Ohio
  9. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan
  10. Cincinnati, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana

Witters noted it’s hard to miss that five of the bottom 10 communities in the index were located in Ohio, which ranked 46th in the Gallup- Healthways index of well-being among states.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, from a well-being perspective, inside of Ohio,” he said.

Overall, residents of cities that ranked low in well-being were 68 percent more likely to smoke than their happier counterparts and 55 percent less likely to enjoy what they do each day. They had less access to food and healthcare.

Another big difference: the state of their teeth. It turned out residents of the not-so-content cities were much less likely to have visited a dentist in the last 12 months.

“Good oral health makes a difference in well-being and that’s not something people would normally think about,” Witters said. “People in high well-being cities take good care of their teeth.”

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