For the third consecutive year, Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida has been ranked the happiest community in the US. The research conducted by Gallup-Healthways’ survey of well-being adopts a holistic approach by interviewing US residents from 186 communities querying key elements of their general well-being. The report draws on five core components of happiness; personal purpose and motivation, social relationships, financial stability, a sense of community and security, and physical health. Naples has not only come in first place for the past three years, it is also the first community to rank either first or second across all five elements mentioned above.
Runners-up to Naples are Barnstable Town; Massachusetts, followed by Boulder, Colorado; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California; and Charlottesville, Virginia. All of these communities have featured in the top ten list over the past decade. The highest ranking communities are mainly located in five states. California leads the charge with seven cities, with Florida taking second place with four. North Carolina, Virginia, and Colorado also have two communities in the top 25. The report goes on to argue that there is a general trend of high-ranking cities and regions being located in states that have a reputation for advanced social policies and overall health and well-being of residents.
The lowest ranking regions are located squarely in the South, where the report details overall statewide decline in well-being over 2017. Following the trend of those at the higher end of the spectrum, the lowest listed have not shifted from the bottom over the last decade. Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma, had the poorest overall score.
Gallup-Healthways said, “data and insights from this report can be used as a call to action for communities around the country, leveraging it to benchmark and identify opportunities for well-being improvement.” Acknowledging that 2017 was a difficult year for citizens of the US, the poll results report a sharp decline in two core elements across the country — social and purpose. They go further to mention that this uncharacterized shift is the largest decline in the 10-year history of the Well-Being Index. That being said, there seems to be an overall nationwide improvement in the physical health of the population noting a decline in smokers and an increase in exercise.
Nationwide, this research is a crucial analysis of statewide productivity, the cost of living, levels of relative happiness and physical health. Gallup-Healthways also remarked that this data is vital not only for policy making but for local residents to use as a tool for improving quality of life. In regions where scores differ between communities that are culturally similar and geographically close, residents can use this information as a guide and adopt similar healthy behaviors and tactics. Gallup-Healthways said that taking a multifaceted approach to improving the well-being of citizens is crucial. The report goes on to outline the importance for everyone in communities from policymakers, mayors to everyday citizens, to take responsibility and play their part.