Live Happy

Where you live can determine how happy you live. At least, this is what two national surveys—one from WalletHub, the other from Gallup-Healthyways—found when they crunched the numbers on key indicators to determine the happiness quotient of cities around the United States.
WalletHub’s survey, 2017’s Happiest Places to Live, compared 150 of the largest U.S. cities across 30 key indicators, including emotional and physical well-being, income and employment levels, and community and environment rank, to determine where folks are most content with their lives.
After the data was analyzed, WalletHub determined you might want to pack up and go west, young man. Eight of the top 10 happiest cities in the country on this list are in California:

  1. Fremont, California
  2. San Jose, California
  3. Irvine, California
  4. San Francisco
  5. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  6. Huntington Beach, California
  7. San Diego
  8. Oakland, California
  9. Santa Rosa, California
  10. Washington, D.C.

A deeper dive into the research turns up these interesting tidbits:

  • Six cities (all in California) have low depression rates. In fact, there was a six-way tie for the top spot in this category between Los Angeles, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine, Huntington Beach and Glendale.
  • If you want great sleep, the Midwest is calling your name. The top five cities with the highest adequate sleep rate are Overland Park, Kansas; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Denver; Boise, Idaho; and Austin, Texas. Conversely, give Cleveland; Birmingham, Alabama; Honolulu; Newark, New Jersey; and Detroit a wide berth. These five cities were at the bottom of the sleep rate category.
  • Washington, D.C.; Seattle; Corpus Christi, Texas; El Paso, Texas; and Denver have the highest income growth rates.
  • Suicide rates are highest in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Springfield, Missouri; Salt Lake City; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Anchorage, Alaska.

Gallup-Healthways’ State of American Well-Being ranked 189 communities across the country based on their well-being index score, which looked at data across five criteria: purpose, social,  nancial, community and physical. The community-level data are drawn from more than 350,000 interviews with adults across all 50 states.
The top-10 happiest cities on the Gallup-Healthways list are:

  1. Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida
  2. Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
  3. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California
  4. Honolulu
  5. Charlottesville, Virginia
  6. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
  7. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, California
  8. Lynchburg, Virginia
  9. Hilton Head Island, Bluffton-Beaufort, South Carolina
  10. Boulder, Colorado

Closer scrutiny of the State of American Well-Being survey teased out these gems:

  • This is the second year in a row for Naples, Florida, to take the top spot. It is also important to note that Naples is reported to have the least-stressed residents in the country.
  • Though separated by only about 300 miles, Charlottesville, Virginia, and Huntington-Ashland, West Virginia, are at opposite ends of the list. This appears to be the norm over the past few years. One factor that most likely aids Charlottesville’s well-being is the University of Virginia. Past research shows residents of cities with a strong college presence have high well-being.
  • Fort Worth, Texas, though ranked 55 on the list, is going all out to improve the well-being of its citizens. In 2015, the city joined the Blue Zones Project (currently in nine states), where more than 27,000 individuals pledged to lead healthier lives. The initiative has improved access to fresh produce in food deserts, and there’s a 2.2 point increase in exercise and a 3.3 point decrease in smoking rates across the city.
  • Flint, Michigan, still in the throes of the water purity crisis discovered in 2014, was in the bottom five for community well-being for the second year in a row.
  • Financial stability was a strong determinant in respondents’ happiness, with the median household income in a majority of the 25 highest-ranked communities on this list ranked “well above” the national median income of $55,775.

Note: Racism’s impact on well-being and health disparities weren’t factored into either survey (although WalletHub did give full-weight to food-insecurity rates). There were no people of color on the WalletHub panel of experts weighing in on the significance of the data. The racial makeup of the Gallup-Healthways survey’s experts wasn’t available.


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