Na Hula O Kaohikukapulani

Understanding well-being is important because it has such strong influence on the choices we make.

Hawaii comes out on top in a new ranking of which state’s residents have the best sense of overall well-being, based on physical health, happiness, job satisfaction and other factors that affect quality of life.

West Virginia is the state where people have the worst sense of well-being, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index for 2011, released today.

The states that rank in the top 10 after Hawaii: North Dakota, Minnesota, Alaska, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Montana.

The bottom of the list after West Virginia: Kentucky (No. 49), Mississippi, Delaware, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, and Tennessee and Nevada tied for No. 40.

Gallup conducted phone surveys from a random sample of 1,000 people daily for 350 days in 2011. People answered questions about their physical health (chronic health conditions, obesity); lifestyle behaviors (smoking, diet and exercise); emotional health (feelings of happiness, sadness); work environment (relationship with supervisors); basic access (health care, food); and life evaluation (how they rate their lives). Gallup then analyzed the results to develop the annual index, which began in 2008.

Healthways, which sponsors the research, works with people, families, businesses and communities to improve well-being to lower health care costs and improve productivity.

“Many chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease could be avoided if we made better choices,” says Jim Pope, a cardiologist and Healthways’ chief science officer. “Understanding well-being is important because it has such a strong influence on the choices we make.”

Collecting the data is a big financial commitment, says Healthways CEO Ben Leedle, but the research sheds light on people’s mind-set when they make decisions, so “we can create support to help them develop habits that lead to better health.”

Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University who was not connected with the survey, says: “The concept of well-being is a shorthand term that reflects all the influences on us — relationships, income, stress, work. To tap into what gives a person a sense of well-being can be useful in helping them make good decisions and solve problems in their lives.”

Photo credit:  Hawai’i Magazine

Via USA Today