Alaskan residents are enjoying the highest level of well-being, which is the state of happiness, according to a new Gallup poll. This is the first time the northern most American state has led in this quality of life.
The State of the States series of polls conducted by Gallup measures attitudes and opinions of people across the United States. The happiness poll has been conducted each year since 2008.
More than 176,000 interviews were conducted between January and December 2014 as part of this study. Scores between zero and 100 were assigned in each of five categories, including purpose, a measurement of how satisfied people are with their daily work, and social well-being, or how much support subjects felt from family and friends. Physical health was examined, as well as feelings of community. Financial concerns, which can often be responsible for increased stress levels, rounded out the categories studied in State of the States.
The highest score hitters in Gallup's Well-Being Index, after Alaska, were Hawaii and South Dakota, followed by Wyoming and Montana to complete the top five.
Colorado came in number six, followed by Nebraska. Utah placed number eight in the Gallup rankings, with New Mexico taking number nine. The Lone Star State, Texas, finished out the top 10 list. Colorado and Hawaii also both made it into the top t10 for the seventh year in a row.
One of the largest changes in the survey was seen in North Dakota, which fell 22 places in just a single year.
"North Dakota tumbled from the top spot in 2013 to 23rd in 2014. North Dakota's drop was mostly attributable to a drop in its residents' overall life evaluation, coupled with worsened health-related behaviors such as higher smoking rates, reduced exercise and less healthy eating compared with 2013," Gallup researchers reported.
West Virginia residents were found to be the least happy, followed by Kentucky. This is the sixth consecutive year that those two states have come in 50th and 49th respectively in the annual survey.
Most of the states with the low rankings for well-being are located in the Midwest, from Michigan in the north, to Mississippi and Alabama in the south. Missouri and Arkansas were the westernmost states in the bottom ranking of well-being, with West Virginia furthest to the east.
Life evaluation, considered to be a key indicator of well-being, reached a new high nationwide in the 2014. Obesity, however, also reached a new high, lowering health scores and lifespans.
Emotional health is just as important as physical health in overall well-being, researchers reported.
"The importance of holistic well-being is not just a theory. People are leaving a lot of untapped potential sitting out there if all they do is focus on the physical part. Focusing on all aspects [of well-being] makes a big difference," Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, said.