Competition was fierce, but the crown for the state that's best for its residents' well-being has gone to Alaska. Clearly, the cold never bothered them anyway.
Earlier this week, the ranking for the states best (and worst) for the well-being of its denizens were published by the Gallup-Health ways Well-Being Index, which put the Last Frontier at the top.
Rethink your idea of paradise: In the index, well-being was defined by five key elements: sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship to community and physical health. Alaska — a place where temperatures sometimes dip to minus-30 degrees for weeks at a time — beat out Hawaii for the top spot not because of superior climate (obviously) but because based on the answers the residents provided, Alaskans generally feel fulfilled.
The "judges" were regular people: Gallup's sample of respondents mirrors American demographics as closely as possible, assuring a fair ranking. States were ranked based on interviews with more than 176,000 people representing all 50 states. The participants had to answer questions about how satisfied their were at work, how fulfilling their social life was, whether or not they enjoyed their community and how they would rate their physical health. Since the ranking was first started in 2008, Alaska has made it to the Top 10 four different times, but this is the first time the state has been awarded the first place title.
On the other end of the spectrum: West Virginia. The Mountain State rounded out the bottom of the pack for the sixth year in a row. West Virginians reported being dissatisfied not only with their physical health, but also with unfulfilled when it comes to enjoying what they do everyday.
One of the indicators of a state with a high state of well-being is economic success, which leaves West Virginia in the (coal) dust. According to the Gallup-Healthways survey, places like Alaska, where well-being is at a maximum, are also more likely to have fewer pregnant teens, more high-school graduates and more residents that are willing to donate to charities. Businesses are also likely to thrive in these states, benefiting from the positive vibes and emotional health of a customer base that feels more comfortable spending money.
Rather than just using the survey results as an excuse to party on the North Pole, Americans in the "Lower 48" should view Gallup's index as a wake-up call. States like West Virginia aren't going to lift themselves up to Alasken levels of self-satisfaction without investment in their infrastructures, economies and citizens. By directing resources to the states hardest hit by a sense of poor well-being, we might just be able to knock Alaska off its perch — or, at least, join it at the top.