South Dakota, once known by that nickname, and Vermont tied for the top spot in the Gallup-Sharecare 2017 State of American Well-Being Rankings, released on Tuesday. The report measures how Americans feel about their physical health, social connections, finances, community and sense of purpose.
The latest winners may not be as obvious as Hawaii, a frequent champ on the list, but they consistently show up in the top 10.
“For those of us who follow this closely over the years, it’s not a surprise to see South Dakota and Vermont sharing that perch. They’re both historically very high well-being states,” Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, told TODAY. “They both have a lot of good things going for them.”
Residents in both states are in good physical health, eat a healthy diet, feel safe in and proud of their communities, and manage their finances well, he noted.
South Dakotans, in particular, report little significant worry or stress on any given day and say they like what they do. Vermonters, meanwhile, enjoy a lot of supportive relationships and love in their lives.
The top five states for overall well-being are:
1. South Dakota (tie)
1. Vermont (tie)
5. North Dakota
Colorado, which was ranked in sixth place, and Hawaii are the only two states to always make the top 10 since the index began in 2008.
West Virginia also remains consistent, but in a much less desirable way. The state once again landed at the bottom of the rankings, thanks to problems such as “through the roof” obesity, a high incidence of diabetes, a smoking rate that’s the highest in the nation and depression, Witters said.
“They’re carrying around way too many pounds, they’re lighting up way too much, their disease burden is generally quite significant… their mental health is also quite poor,” he noted. “That gives you a sense of the kinds of struggles they fight with that toss sand in the gears of their overall well-being.”
West Virginia has been dead last on the list every year except one — 2008, when Mississippi ranked lowest.
The five states at the bottom of the list are:
50. West Virginia
Here are some of the other findings from the report:
2017 was a "challenging" year for U.S. well-being.
Compared to 2016, 21 states declined in well-being and none improved in 2017, which was the largest year-over-year decline in the index’s history.
The physical health metrics were fine, but emotional, mental and psychological health worsened, Witters noted. Overall, Americans reported more worry and depression, and less interest or pleasure in doing things, the report found. The declines happened more among women, blacks and Hispanics, people with low incomes and those who identified themselves as Democrats.
“It is fair to postulate that swapping out the fellow in the White House is playing a role,” Witters said. “I think everyone would agree, whether you’re a Trump supporter or not, that 2017 was a psychologically tumultuous year for America.”
But the number of Americans "thriving" reached a record
More than 56 percent of Americans rated their current and future lives as “thriving” — a record high for the index. This metric is closely linked to the economy, Witters noted.
The Gallup-Sharecare 2017 State Well-Being Rankings are based on interviews with more than 160,000 Americans over the past year.