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Hawaii Wins, Again
February 28, 2013 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Gallup Healthways has released its state-by-state well being index for 2012. According to the methodology page, the index is based on a survey in which participants are asked about their life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, work environment, and basic access to necessities. For the fourth consecutive year, Hawaii had the highest index score and West Virginia the lowest. The top five states were: Hawaii, Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, and Vermont. The lowest five were: West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas.
posted by Area Man (31 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Really surprised about Hawaii. When I lived on the Big Island back in 1998, most of the natives seemed pretty poor, and ... not in terribly good shape. As I understood it, they had a lot of the same social problems as Native Americans. And when I visited Kauai recently, most of the natives seemed to be ... not in terribly good shape.

I suppose that, as an outsider, I'm not seeing the real Hawaii?
posted by Afroblanco at 10:53 AM on February 28, 2013


Afroblanco, I think it's probably significant that "participants are asked about their life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, work environment, and basic access to necessities." When you ask someone to self-evaluate, they're giving you their perception, which is relative to their expectations and their own thoughts about life and lifestyle.

That's not the same as "objective metric X, Y, and Z per capita yadda yadda."
posted by trackofalljades at 10:56 AM on February 28, 2013


I am guessing Hawaii keeps winning because the ridiculous cost of living results in a strong selection for the wealthy.

I'm surprised Minnesota did as well as it did. It has a pretty gentle (if repressed) culture, but I've always thought the average fitness was pretty low. Turns out it's no worse than the state I'm in, Idaho - kind of surprising but I have to remember that Boise isn't representative of the state, and apparently Minnesota isn't as bad as I thought.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:03 AM on February 28, 2013


Yay! We're in the bottom 10!

Oh, wait... now really more un-well.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:08 AM on February 28, 2013


Interesting that the remaining 9 of the top 10 are not warm and palmy (half of New England in the top 10).
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:14 AM on February 28, 2013


Mitrovarr: The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area consistently ranks in the top 5 (often #1) in various
"fittest metropolitan areas of the USA" surveys/polls/etc. Outstate MN has the same problems that most of the rural US does, but half the state's population lives in one of the most active areas in the US.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/american-fitness-index-fittest-cities-healthiest_n_1537239.html
http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/21/fittest-cities-washington-lifestyle-health-exercise-obesity-fit_slide_9.html
posted by unixrat at 11:15 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting that the remaining 9 of the top 10 are not warm and palmy (half of New England in the top 10).

Hawaii has a state law about employers providing affordable health insurance to anyone working even half-time, how does that compare to some of those New England states? Maybe it's not all about the palminess.
posted by trackofalljades at 11:20 AM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's the US map with dynamic display of metrics by state. It defaults to % Obama Approval, so you'll have to select Overall Wellbeing to see the map and the state score table update.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:37 AM on February 28, 2013


unixrat: The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area consistently ranks in the top 5 (often #1) in various "fittest metropolitan areas of the USA" surveys/polls/etc. Outstate MN has the same problems that most of the rural US does, but half the state's population lives in one of the most active areas in the US.

That makes sense (my experience with Minnesota is all small-town), but it surprises me that the Minneapolis-St. Paul area would be like that. The city I live in, Boise, is like that, and so are Salt Lake City and Denver, but those cities are all in or near glorious mountain paradises. There are a great diversity of appealing outdoor fitness options, and fit people move their to be close to the wilderness. I haven't really spent much time in Minneapolis, but I don't think it's like that, and the weather would preclude most forms of outdoor activity for at least four months of the year. It seems like an odd place to have a fitness culture spring up.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:37 AM on February 28, 2013


For the folks that are curious, checking out some census data might help with common misconceptions about Hawaii and things like average income (it's higher than many states, but not by the factors people might think). It's important to remember that Maui is not all of Hawaii or even most of Hawaii (imagine comparing a couple crazy rich ZIP codes of Northern Virginia to that entire state, for example).

Also just as a side note to one of the comments above, the word "native" is definitely not preferred by folks with Polynesian ancestry among the islands. You'll go much farther with folks there by saying "Hawaiian." Similarly, haoles/outsiders are never "Hawaiian" no matter how long they've lived there (decades or even generations). The common phrase to be inclusive of all folks living on the islands full time is "local."
posted by trackofalljades at 11:38 AM on February 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Vermont has socialized medicine, fyi.
posted by jessamyn at 11:38 AM on February 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


And if you want to cut to the chase, here's the list, from best to worst, with scores shifted to the left so they display better here:

66.7 National average
Score State

     
71.1 Hawaii
69.7 Colorado
68.9 Minnesota
68.8 Utah
68.6 Vermont
68.5 Nebraska
68.5 Montana
68.4 New Hampshire
68.1 Massachusetts
68.1 Iowa
68 South Dakota
68 Maryland
67.9 Wyoming
67.7 Washington
67.7 Virginia
67.6 Kansas
67.6 Connecticut
67.4 North Dakota
67.4 California
67.3 Wisconsin
67.3 Maine
67.1 Oregon
67.1 Idaho
67.1 Arizona
66.7 New Mexico
66.7 Nation
66.6 Texas
66.6 Illinois
66.6 Delaware
66.5 Pennsylvania
66.2 New York
66.1 New Jersey
66.1 Georgia
66.1 Alaska
65.8 Florida
65.7 North Carolina
65.6 Michigan
65.5 Rhode Island
65.5 Missouri
65.2 South Carolina
65.2 Oklahoma
65.2 Nevada
65.1 Indiana
64.7 Louisiana
64.6 Ohio
64.2 Alabama
64.1 Arkansas
64 Tennessee
63.6 Mississippi
62.7 Kentucky
61.3 West Virginia
posted by filthy light thief at 11:39 AM on February 28, 2013


When I lived on the Big Island back in 1998, most of the natives seemed pretty poor, and ... not in terribly good shape.

Hawaii actually seems to be 2nd best in obesity of US state, though I suppose that could be mainlanders and native islanders have different demographics
posted by shothotbot at 11:41 AM on February 28, 2013


Based on what I know of folks living in Boulder and Fort Collins (mostly, and a couple other places in the state) I'm not surprised in the least to Colorado so high on the list. Colorado has some happy people in it!
posted by trackofalljades at 11:41 AM on February 28, 2013


Hey, the bottom five, for the most part, all had pretty bad college football seasons.


...

Of course, that criteria goes out the window since Alabama is sixth from the bottom.
posted by Atreides at 11:44 AM on February 28, 2013


Shothotbot, that would be correct. Caucasians, who are of course a minority even on Oahu, tend to do the best with health issues like obesity and diabetes (even the Japanese, another large minority group, do worse there). Pacific Islanders of various backgrounds tend to have the most issues in that regard, and if one presumes there's a correlation there involving a disparity of average income across cultural bounds and the affordability/availability of healthy foods, that would be correct as well.

Hawaii is certainly not without it's problems, but I'm definitely unsurprised by its high performance given such a qualitative idea as "well being." It's not just the realities of life there, it's how people feel about living there. The whole "aloha spirit" thing isn't just tourism BS, it's very real.
posted by trackofalljades at 11:45 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vermont has socialized medicine, fyi.

And Massachusetts has mandatory health insurance, sort of.
posted by maryr at 11:52 AM on February 28, 2013


Hasn't Vermont's socialized medicine not hit yet? I thought it was 2014 or something. (I'm surprised my mom doesn't email me a countdown or something. I guess Bernie Sanders hasn't sent her one yet.)

It seems like an odd place to have a fitness culture spring up.

I've just concluded that Minneapolis is weird, in good and bad ways.
posted by hoyland at 12:01 PM on February 28, 2013


One thing about Minnesota's wild range in weather is that everyone here really, really appreciates the nice weather, which if you are generous I'd say is about 7 of the 12 months of the year. Honestly, the first few 70 degree days in the spring it's like everyone's on ecstasy.

I'd take a Minnesota summer over just about any place any season. The winters do suck.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:08 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hasn't Vermont's socialized medicine not hit yet?

No, we've had sliding scale health care for everyone for quite some time now. Before I was getting paid by MetaFilter I got state subsidized health care for $7/month.
posted by jessamyn at 12:09 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a saying in Hawaii - "Lucky you live Hawaii." People are generally happy there and I'd think giving a survey asking participants about their "life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, work environment, and basic access to necessities" its not surprising Hawaii wins this YoY.

However, outside of the tourist areas, especially on Oahu, Hawaii has all the issues that the Mainland deals with, albeit on a smaller scale.
posted by vonstadler at 12:17 PM on February 28, 2013


Not having to deal with a lot of the weather related issues people in mainland America have to deal with goes a long way towards overall happiness in Hawaii, and I'm saying this from the perspective of having lived here since 1972 (and having grown up in Michigan, which has comparatively awful weather 75% of the time). The State has mandated employer paid health care since I think 1974, which has to be considered as a major contributor towards health/satisfaction, and smoking has all but disappeared, at least on Oahu...can't say for the Neighbor Islands.

I am guessing Hawaii keeps winning because the ridiculous cost of living results in a strong selection for the wealthy.

There is also a lot to be said for this viewpoint...we pay some of the highest taxes in America, and a large part of that goes towards health care for State of Hawaii employees, State of Hawaii retirees, and their dependents. So eventually the happiness index will become lower unless the State figures out some way to pay for all this happiness.
posted by motown missile at 12:21 PM on February 28, 2013


I haven't really spent much time in Minneapolis, but I don't think it's like that, and the weather would preclude most forms of outdoor activity for at least four months of the year. It seems like an odd place to have a fitness culture spring up.

There's lots of snow sports and they can be quite fun! Outdoors in the winter isn't as much of a dead zone as you might imagine.

It's not San Diego in December, but you make the best of what you're given. Come visit!
posted by unixrat at 12:36 PM on February 28, 2013


Our largely socialized health care system is so good in Hawaii we're even able to fix up people who oppose our system to rave reviews.

Hawaii isn't perfect and there's a ton of stuff that needs to be improved, but lucky we live Hawaii, indeed. The food is good, the weather is great, the people are the best and really we're pretty health conscious in general. Also, there seems to be less stigma attached to emotional health issues out here. When I started getting treatment for depression, I was able to talk about it openly without the kind of "don't talk about it" attitude I used to get on the mainland.

Maybe that's a national trend, I don't know. I do know that feeling like it was OK that I was getting help made a huge difference.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:40 PM on February 28, 2013


I live in Minnesota and am usually in better shape in the Winter because I like to cross-country ski. Running and riding my bike are kind of dull and require a real act of will.
posted by Area Man at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Minnesota also has a healthcare system closer to universal than almost all other states (excluding VT and maybe MA). IA also has pretty good healthcare access. The point being that affordable healthcare is maybe one of the larger factors here. Who would have guessed?
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was recently in Maui and I walked past an AA meeting being held in a beautiful park overlooking the ocean. I thought, dang, that sure beats a church basement
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:58 PM on February 28, 2013


Hooray for Minnesota!! I've lived in Colorado and Minnesota...although Colorado has the mountains, Minnesota summers are a sweet divinity.

Although Skeptical Me is suspicious about the responses, especially in the emotional wellbeing section. Perhaps the Minnesotans were interviewed in the month of May? We probably would have scored in the lowest quartile had we been interviewed in January. Or, perhaps the Minnesotans interviewed were truly unhappy people...but, being Minnesotan, they wouldn't complain. Instead they said, "Oh, I'm doing just fine, nice weather, good health, ya know" with a thin-lipped smile masking the repressed agony that comes with long winters and mosquitoes.

What do I care. It's 28 degrees out right now and sunny. The usual gale off the Big Lake is but a mere breeze with a hint of spring on it. I just walked to the post office without a coat on. March starts tomorrow. The snow is melting. Ah! Spring!
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2013


Indiana: We're better than Ohio. Barely.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2013


No, we've had sliding scale health care for everyone for quite some time now. Before I was getting paid by MetaFilter I got state subsidized health care for $7/month.

How come I've lived here for 30 years and didn't know that, in fact never heard of it? Is it like Dr. Dinosaur for adults?
posted by Xurando at 2:17 PM on February 28, 2013


I don't know what to tell you. I think now they call it the Catamount plan but it's all changing around now that there is going to be national health care and I don't know the details anymore.
posted by jessamyn at 3:05 PM on February 28, 2013


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