And the U.S. State with the Highest Well-Being Is…

There were no upsets in this year's Gallup-Healthways survey of Americans' overall well-being.

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Once again, Hawaii came out on top: the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released Monday found that the island state still ranked highest in well-being in the nation — for the third year in a row. Stuck in last place again: West Virginia.

Hawaii scored 70.2 out of a possible perfect well-being score of 100. Rounding out the top 10 states with the highest scores were North Dakota, 70.0; Minnesota, 69.2; Utah, 69.0; Alaska, 69.0; Colorado, 68.4; Kansas, 68.4; Nebraska, 68.3; New Hampshire, 68.2; and Montana, 68.0.

At the bottom end, West Virginia scored 62.3 — in last place, but still an improvement from its 2010 well-being index of 61.7. Rounding out the 10 lowest-scoring states: Kentucky, 63.3; Mississippi, 63.4; Delaware, 64.2; Ohio, 64.5; Alabama, 64.6; Arkansas, 64.7; Missouri, 64.8; Florida, 64.9; and Tennessee and Nevada, both at 65.0.

Hewing to a four-year trend, Western and mountain states and those on the Eastern seaboard — where people’s physical health and access to health care are typically better — generally had higher well-being. Southern and Midwestern states fared worse, likely due in part to higher rates of obesity and poverty. Overall, the nation’s scored a 66.2 in well-being in 2011, the survey found, down slightly from 66.8 in 2010 and the lowest score that the Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index has logged since it was launched in 2008.

For the survey, Gallup phoned 353,492 American adults in each state every day in 2011. The interviewers probed participants about six key areas of well-being:

  • life evaluation, including participants’ ratings of their present life situation and what they anticipated for themselves in five years
  • emotional health, including whether people smiled or laughed a lot, felt happy and engaged, were treated with respect, or experienced worry, stress, anger or depression
  • work environment and job satisfaction, including whether were able to use their strengths to perform at their best every day
  • physical health, such as disease, obesity or other health problems and daily ailments like headaches and colds
  • healthy behaviors, including diet, exercising and smoking
  • basic access to healthy food, clean water, a safe place to exercise, a safe home and health care

Across the board, on a national level, scores on these sub-indexes of well-being dipped, probably reflecting a sluggish economy. But Hawaii’s top scores in emotional health (83.8) and healthy behaviors (68.9) helped it hang onto its No. 1 rank. According to the report:

Hawaiians were the most likely to say they smiled or laughed a lot “yesterday” and the least likely to report daily worry or stress and to have ever been diagnosed with depression. Residents’ good eating and exercise habits and lower smoking rates earned them the distinction of having the best healthy behaviors in the nation.

West Virginia, meanwhile, came in last in life evaluation (41.1) — the state’s residents were least likely to rate their lives highly enough to be “thriving” — and also had the highest percentage of obese residents, putting it in last place for physical health (69.9).

See the full Gallup-Healthways report here.

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