Alaska, Hawaii Lead the United States in Well-Being in Annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index State Rankings
Well-Being Index Leverages Real-Time, Self-Reported Data to Deliver Most Proven, Mature and Comprehensive Measure of Well-Being in Populations
News Release from Gallup-Healthways February 19, 2015
WASHINGTON & NASHVILLE, Tenn.--For the seventh consecutive year, global well-being improvement leader Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) and world-leading management consulting firm Gallup have announced their analysis of the state of well-being across the United States. Alaska achieved the nation’s highest well-being ranking, while West Virginia ranked as the state with the lowest well-being for the sixth consecutive year.
“Well-being is a metric that every government and business leader should have on their dashboard because it has been linked to so many important outcomes”
The analysis is based on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being throughout the world. Almost 177,000 interviews nationwide fueled the 2014 analysis, which goes beyond physical health alone to capture how Americans feel and experience the context of their daily lives. In addition to physical health, the Well-Being Index examines Americans’ perceptions on topics that span individuals’ sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security and relationship to their community. These five elements create a composite well-being picture of each state and the nation that can inform public and private efforts to design and implement initiatives to improve well-being.
“Researchers, policy makers and healthcare leaders need good information about the well-being of populations that they serve,” said David B. Nash, M.D., MBA, Dean, Jefferson School of Population Health. “Well-being sheds light on the issues that drive quality, cost and productivity. A well-being metric also supports the creation of an action plan for our nation, in order to achieve sustained improvement in the health of our citizens.”
In 2014, the news on well-being was positive. Nationally, many aspects of well-being improved to their best levels since measurement began in 2008. Life evaluation — individuals’ expectations about their current life and expectations about their future — reached its highest recorded point in the United States in 2014.
Alaska residents had the highest well-being in the nation in 2014, with Hawaii, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Utah, New Mexico and Texas rounding out the top 10. Kentucky and West Virginia continued to have the lowest well-being in the nation, ranking 49th and 50th, respectively, for six straight years.
Additional insights on the state rankings include the following:
- Although this is a first-time first-place finish for Alaska, the state has ranked in the top five for four out of seven years. Notably, Alaska is the only state to rank in the top 10 in all five elements, and Alaskans are first in purpose well-being.
- Hawaii and Colorado are the only states to finish in the top 10 every year since 2008. They join ten other elite states — Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming — that have been in the top 10 at least three times in seven years.
- Wyoming and New Mexico saw strong improvement in the rankings, returning to the top 10 after several years of lower rankings.
- Minnesota dropped out of the top 10 for the first time, slipping to 11th.
- North Dakota, last year’s first-place finisher, experiences this year’s most significant drop in the rankings, to the 23rd spot.
- In addition to West Virginia and Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi and Ohio also consistently have low well-being within their populations.
Based on both companies’ ongoing scientific well-being research, Gallup and Healthways updated the survey instrument in 2014 to include questions that addressed important characteristics of well-being that were previously unmeasured and unknown. For example, the new instrument includes questions that examine the social structures that are influenced by family members and friends.
“The Well-Being Index is designed to dynamically measure and detect localized shifts in well-being, setting it apart from other nationally-administered health and economic-related instruments,” said Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. “As we increase the sensitivity of the Well-Being Index, we shine a light into previously dark corners of our understanding of well-being, expanding the reach and utility of the instrument. This sensitivity manifests itself in many ways and results in a measurement that can and does yield substantive changes in state and city rankings from one year to the next.”
Witters cited an example from early 2010, when residents of New Orleans reported a marked increase in well-being through February of that year, coinciding with the New Orleans Saints’ run up to Super Bowl XLIV. The bounce in well-being was short-lived, however, due to the explosion of the BP Deep Water Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico just two months later, which resulted in an unprecedented decline in well-being throughout gulf-facing counties. According to Witters, “These two local events side by side vividly illustrate the capacity of the Well-Being Index to detect change in well-being among populations in real time.”
In the United States, higher well-being has been shown to correlate with lower healthcare costs and increased worker productivity, in turn enhancing organizational and community competitiveness. Globally, higher well-being has been associated with outcomes indicative of stability and resilience — for example, healthcare utilization, intent to migrate, trust in elections and local institutions, daily stress, food/shelter security, volunteerism and willingness to help others.
“Well-being is a metric that every government and business leader should have on their dashboard because it has been linked to so many important outcomes,” said Janet Calhoun, senior vice president of strategy, innovations and solutions at Healthways. “We have the unique ability to gather essential insights at individual, business and community levels, providing companies with a lens into where there are opportunities for meaningful change within a population. Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to well-being improvement, measuring well-being is a critical first step in developing strategies to achieve results and to create a culture of well-being.”
To access the complete report, “State of American Well-Being: 2014 State Well-Being Rankings,” visit www.well-beingindex.com/2014-state-rankings. Gallup and Healthways will release community rankings in March, followed by country rankings in May.