Measuring Well-Being In The U.S.

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Gallup Well Being Index Map

Which U.S. states had the highest well-being in 2011? Results are in from the Gallup-Healthways' Well-Being Index.

For the fourth year in a row, the mid-west has the highest well-being index across all regions in the U.S., but the place to be is Hawaii whose residents had the highest well-being scores in the country. West Virginia turned in the lowest well-being index.

In 2008, The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index was created to officially measure the nation's well-being. Via phone surveys, Gallup interviewers track the well-being of a random sample of approximately 1,000 U.S. residents, 350 days per year. The general Index addresses the following content categories:

  • Life Evaluation (the evaluation of life today and anticipated life situation in 5 years)
  • Emotional Health (including smiling, learning something new, happiness, sadness, anger, stress)
  • Physical Health (including daily energy, illness, and sick days)
  • Healthy Behavior (including exercise and life style habits)
  • Work Environment (satisfaction and a quality workplace)
  • Basic Access (including access to food, shelter, and healthcare)

The Index was originally inspired by the work of Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and psychology professor Ed Diener, who have been influential in addressing the question of what well-being actually means in contemporary life. Data from the fields of survey research , health, and behavioral economics also contribute to the composition of the Index.

Gallup Healthways Well-Being scores

On a scale of 0 - 100, the overall well-being for the U.S. in 2011 was 66.2 and has remained fairly static since the inception of the Index, a fact which Gallup attributes to the struggling economy.

When reviewing scores for the Emotional Health sub-index specifically, Gallup notes that Hawaiians were the "most likely to say they smiled or laughed a lot 'yesterday,' and the least likely to report worry, stress, or past diagnoses of depression. Although the Gallup website doesn't offer a sandy beach and a warm ocean, it does give you a host of filtering tools for reviewing various aspects of well-being in many metropolitan areas.

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