Utah, Hawaii, Wyoming Top 3 States for Well-Being

March 11, 2009

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Utah, Hawaii, and Wyoming are the three US states with the highest well-being scores, while southern states West Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi have the lowest well-being ratings, according to a recent Gallup analysis of more than 350,000 interviews conducted in 2008.


The new, state-level data are the results from the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) State and Congressional District Resource for Well-Being. The Well-Being Index score for the nation and for each state is an average of six sub-indices, which individually examine life evaluation, healthy behaviors, work environment, physical health, emotional health, and access to basic necessities. The questions in each sub-index are asked nightly of 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older.

The Well-Being Index national average for 2008 is 65.5, with each point (1.0) representing approximately 2.2 million people nationally, Gallup said. In terms of the total population in the United States, this means that approximately 144 million people ages 18+ have favorable well-being. Across all the states, well-being varies by a range of eight points, and even in the lowest-ranked states, there are a majority of citizens who have favorable well-being.

When well-being scores are mapped across the country, a clear pattern emerges with higher well-being states located primarily in the West and lower well-being states clustered in the Midwest and the South. Nevada stands out among its high ranking western counterparts, with a slightly below average well-being score and a rank of 38. Also defying the overarching geographic pattern of well-being are Maryland and Massachusetts, which are the only two states in the Northeast to rank in the top 10.


In addition to the overall well-being score, the states are also ranked on each of the six sub-indices:


  • Hawaii takes the top spot in both emotional health and in life evaluation.
  • Minnesotans have the best physical health in the nation.
  • New Mexico is first in healthy behaviors.
  • Utah has the number one work environment in the country.
  • Massachusetts comes is #1 in terms of access to basic necessities.

In terms of the lowest scores on the sub-indices:

  • West Virginia has the lowest score on three of the six sub-indices; life evaluation, emotional health, and physical health.
  • Kentucky ranks last on healthy behaviors.
  • Mississippi is bottom in terms of access to basic necessities.

States in the top tier in overall well-being are not necessarily the highest ranking states in each of the six sub-indices, Gallup said. Hawaii, for instance, does rank high on five of the six sub-indices, but reports the lowest quality work environments out of all 50 states.

On the other side of the coin, certain bottom ranked states in overall well-being perform well in select sub-indices. Oklahoma is eighth to last in overall well-being, but reports the third best score for work environment in the country. All told, in order for the Well-Being Index national average to increase in 2009, every state will need to make significant improvements in at least one sub-index area.

Detailed rankings for all 50 states, as well as congressional district level data, are available at the AHIP Hi-Wire site.

About the survey: Results are based on the Gallup Healthways Survey telephone interviews with more than 350,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted in 2008 as part of Gallup Poll Daily tracking. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ?1 percentage point. Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

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