By Mary Bowerman
February 19, 2015
When it comes to well-being, Alaskans nabbed the top spot in the United States, according to an annual ranking.
West Virginia, however, came in dead last for the sixth time in six years, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Hawaii and South Dakota followed Alaska in spots two and three. And Kentucky stayed in the 49th spot, where it’s been for a number of years.
The 2014 rankings, released Thursday, are based on over 176,000 phone interviews with people in all 50 states. The Index measures how people feel about and experience their daily lives, and looks at their health across five categories: purpose, social, financial, community and physical.
Over the past seven years, Alaska has ranked in the top 10 four times. And Alaskans are having a good year for a reason, according to Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
“They do a lot of the blocking and tackling, as far as taking care of themselves and making good choices, but also demonstrating good holistic well-being in ways that extend beyond the conventional physical wellness,” Witters said.
Interestingly, states with an overall low sense of well-being may not rank poorly in all five of the categories. For example, Louisiana (No. 40) ranked on the lowest end in social, financial, community and physical elements, but sense of purpose was comparable to states in the top 10.
“If you’re an advocacy group, you’re looking at areas where you can improve,” says Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of the CUNY School of Public Health. “So you look at the overall ranking and the areas that stand out as worse than others (and) those are the areas that you focus your energies on.”
While West Virginia remained stagnant, there were some shakeups in the rankings. North Dakota dropped from the first spot in 2013 to the 23rd spot in this year’s list. Hawaii and Colorado are the only states that have placed in the top 10 every year since 2008.
El-Mohandes cautions that there’s a lag between improvements made in the state and the perceptions of people who live there.
“If there is a general malaise about the economy in Kentucky or West Virginia, even if there are new projects and new investments, by the time those change the overall perception in the state, it might take a while,” El-Mohandes says.
Top 10 states ranked highest for overall well-being:
- South Dakota
- New Mexico
The 10 states ranked lowest for overall well-being:
- West Virginia
Originally published by USAToday.com