Alaskans have the highest sense of purpose. South Dakotans feel the greatest social and community well-being. Residents of West Virginia and Kentucky continue to feel the worst about themselves. These are some of the results from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which is based on a 50-state survey of 176,000 people. Generally, the survey finds, people are happiest in the Northern Plains and Mountain West and least happy in the South and in the Rust Belt.
Gallup and Healthways have been monitoring state-by-state well-being since 2008 and the results for 2014 are in line with previous surveys, albeit with a few movements in exactly where states place. States like Hawaii, Colorado, and Utah are consistently in the top-10, while West Virginia, Mississippi, Ohio, Arkansas, and Kentucky are often at the bottom.
Compared to 2013’s results, Alaska–which comes top overall–is the biggest positive mover (up 15 places), followed by Wyoming (up 30 places) and New Mexico (24 places). Going the other way are North Dakota (down 22 places), Washington (down 19) and Illinois (down 14). There’s a full 20 places between the Dakotas, which is strange.
The survey covers five aspects of well-being and doesn’t just ask how people are feeling generally about things. The elements are “purpose” (are you motivated to fulfill your goals?); “social” (having supportive relationship and love in your life); “financial” (do money problems stress you out?); “community” (liking your neighborhood); and “physical” (being in good health). Gallup and Healthways say it takes more than one element for people to feel good about their lives.
Though of course individuals in any state could have very high and very low well-being, and the survey might exaggerate the differences between states with similar scores, the results do show marked variations across the country. They also align with other state-by-state research (like this and this).
Read the full report, including extracted results for your state, here.