And the Happiest State in the Nation Is …

We explain the surprising answer.

If you guessed Florida, sorry, you’re not even close. California? Not even in the the top 10. Hawaii? You’re getting warmer: The Aloha State is No. 2.  

The highest-ranking U.S. state in the just-released annual Gallup-Healthways well-being poll is … Alaska. Who knew caribou jerky and sub-zero weather could be so much fun?

Explanation of the rankings

According to Dan Witters, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index Research Director, Alaska's ranking is not such a surprise. “Alaska is no stranger to our top 10 rankings,” according to Dan. “In fact, it has been in the top five on three previous occasions, but this is its first year at No. 1.”

The five indicators of well-being used in the poll were: purpose, positive social interactions, financial security, a sense of community and physical health. This year, Alaskans were feeling good enough to knock North Dakota off its 2013 perch as No. 1.

Dog sledding is good for your health

Says Dan, “Alaskans benefit from very good basic fitness and healthy choices. They top the nation in exercise, with 64 percent reporting that they exercise at least 30 minutes at least three days per week, and they have the lowest diabetes and cholesterol rates in the U.S.” Despite (or perhaps because of) a sparse overall population, Alaskans also report a very strong sense of community.

Smoking, obesity: bad for your health

At the other end of the scale, West Virginia came in at the bottom for the sixth consecutive year. Poor physical and mental health may be a contributing factor (or a consequence of other factors such as economics). According to Dan, “Residents of West Virginia carry the second-highest obesity rate (34 percent), the highest depression diagnosis rate (27 percent), the highest diabetes rate (16 percent), and the highest cholesterol rate (32 percent) in the nation. They also are heavy smokers, with 29 percent who report being a smoker.”

Below are the Top 10 States for Well-Being in 2014. For the complete list, go to the Gallup-Healthways Site.

  1. Alaska
  2. Hawaii
  3. South Dakota
  4. Wyoming
  5. Montana
  6. Colorado
  7. Nebraska
  8. Utah
  9. New Mexico
  10. Texas

 

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