How much does where you live affect your health and well-being?
Of course, no matter where you call home, your lifestyle choices are your personal responsibility. But the people and places that surround us, and the resources made available to us, also play a big role in our quality of life.
When you take a look at the “big picture,” it certainly seems like there are certain regions and even specific states in America where people are living happier and healthier lives.
A recent survey that is part of Gallup’s State of the States project examined what it calls the “Well-Being Index” of all 50 states. Researchers questioned more than 178,000 adult Americans about their physical and emotional health as well as healthy behaviors, work environment and access to basic needs.
At a glance, the first thing you might notice is that states with the highest Well-Being Index are mostly in the Midwest and Western regions, while states in the South and Southeast tend to have a lower score.
The T0p 10 U.S. States for Well-Being
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
The Bottom 10 U.S. States for Well-Being
- West Virginia
Want to see how your state stacks up against the rest? CLICK HERE to see a complete, visual breakdown of the Gallup survey.
How the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index Survey Works
Researchers at Gallup interviewed Americans throughout 2013 to come up with these findings. Approximately 500 people a day took the Well-Being Index Survey.
Questions were based on six criteria, which respondents rated on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Life Evaluation: Present life situation and anticipated life situation
- Emotional Health: Daily feelings and mental state
- Work Environment: Job satisfaction and workplace interactions
- Physical Health: Physical ability to live a full life
- Healthy Behavior: Engaging in behaviors that affect physical health
- Basic Access: Feeling safe, satisfied, and optimistic within a community
Beginning this year, the poll will use an updated list of five elements, which respondents will use to rate their personal well-being in 2014.
- Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
- Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
- Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
- Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
- Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily
The Well-Being Index score is based on a score of 0 to 100. Interestingly, in 2013 only 9 points separated the top state (North Dakota – 70.4) and the bottom state in the survey (West Virginia – 61.4).
Another interesting thing to note – the new criteria for well-being seems to be based less on healthy living than the previous standards.
Instead of physical and emotional health along with healthy behaviors – the elements being used this year only include one aspect connected to good health. Hopefully, Gallup is not missing the direct connection that healthy living has on every factor of a person’s well-being.
Good physical health can mean a better emotional state of mind (including sense of community and relationships) as well as an improved financial situation (health care costs aren’t cheap). Even feeling like you have purpose in life can be affected by your health.
You health even impacts whether you feel like you have a purpose in life. A healthy person is much more likely to be motivated and productive.
Here in America – there appears to be a distinct connection between poverty and obesity. Logic would seem to indicate that wealthier countries would be more prone to obesity issues – simply because there’s more food around to pig out on.
That does appear to be the case on a global level. But at least within the United States, the opposite is true. Poorer regions tend to have higher obesity rates and a lower sense of well-being.
That is reflected in the Well-Being index, as many impoverished states in the South have both a higher obesity rate and a lower Well-Being index score.
Dr. James A. Levine, a leader in obesity research fromÂ Mayo Clinic, suggests that access to proper nutrition could be a major culprit in America’s obesity problem…
“In contrast to international trends, people in America who live in the most poverty-dense counties are those most prone to obesity…How is poverty linked to obesity? It has been suggested that individuals who live in impoverished regions have poor access to fresh food. Poverty-dense areas are oftentimes called âfood deserts,â implying diminished access to fresh food”
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index indicates U.S. Obesity Rates rose slightly in 2013, continuing a trend since the organization began the index in 2008. The percentage of Americans considered morbidly obeseÂ hit a new high of 3.8%.
Other Gallup research backs up the rise in obesity – studies show that in 2013 America’s eating habits got worse, and we are exercising less and less.
More than 50% of Americans say they want to lose weight, but less than half of those people say they are actively doing anything about it.
How You Can Boost Your Personal Well-Being Index
The consequences of obesity and poor health in America could be dire. As Gallup’s Rebecca Riffkin points out in her summary of the implications connected to U.S. Obesity rates…
“Obesity is linked to increased health risks and lower productivity rates among workers of all industries. A high obesity rate can hold a country back, both in national well-being and in economic productivity.”
So something certainly needs to change.
It starts with you making a decision to change your own life, by changing your attitudes and habits.
The truth is, there are no magic bullets. It simply takes a lifelong commitment to your health and nutrition.
At NaturalÂ Healthy Concepts, it’s our goal to be on your side when it comes to achieving optimal well-being. We truly believe that “your health is the best investment you’ll ever make.”
There’s no super-supplement that can transform you from an unhealthy person into a healthy one. But vitamins, supplements and other natural health products can be helpful partners on your journey to good health.
They can fill nutrient gaps, support your specific health needs, help you lose weight when you’re ready to get serious, and some may even change your life.
If you’re ready to take your health into your own hands – visit NaturalHealthyConcepts.com today – and look for products that can be affordable partners on your path to better well-being. Because it doesn’t matter where you live – health and happiness are choices you make.
It is surprising also that there isn’t more of a focus on emotional health and mental wellness, as this plays such an important role. Obviously there are connections between physical health and emotional well-being, but there are also direct mental health issues at play. One would think access to services in different states would also be important in terms of who is able to get treatment for depression and other issues. The wealthier states probably have the advantage of having their emotional needs tended to more through therapy etc. In terms of happiness, emotional intelligence – which can be learned and modeled in the schools – could be an important focus. This article describes the link between happiness and emotional intelligence: http://www.psy-ed.com/wpblog/emotional-intelligence/
Thanks for the comment and the resource, Dr. Olivia.