If you wanted to create a city full of healthy, happy people, you would need to start by locating it in the West, according to a huge new study.
Boulder, Colo., came out at the top of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which interviewed more than 350,000 people during 2009 and asked them about their jobs, their health, their general sense of well-being, their financial situation and their communities.
Other cities in the top 10 were Holland-Grand Haven, Mich.; Honolulu, Hawaii’; Provo-Orum, Utah; Santa Rosa-Petaluma, Calif.; Santa Barbara-Santa Maria Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; the Washington, D.C. area; Ogden, Utah and Thousand Oaks., Calif.
"Most of our highest-scoring cities are found out West and most of our lowest-scoring cities are in the South," research director Dan Witters told USA Today. From the story:
“Residents of large cities — those with a population of 1 million or more — generally report higher levels of well-being and more optimism about the future than those in small or medium-sized cities. In small cities, at 250,000 or less, people are more likely to feel safe walking alone at night and have enough money for housing.
“The study provides a city-by-city portrait of the nation's mood and a potential tool for policymakers.
“Nine of the 10 cities that fare best on "life evaluation," assessments of life now and expectations in five years, boast a major university, a big military installation or a state Capitol — institutions that presumably provide some insulation from recession.”
The study ranked 162 cities. Those at the bottom were Bakersfield, Calif.; Pensacola, Fla.; Morgantan, N.C.; Shreveport, La., Evansville, Ky.; Bristol, Tenn-Va., Youngstown, Ohio; Flint, Mich.; Charleston, W. Va.; Modesto, Calif. and the Huntington, W. Va area.
"Boulder is a place where a lot of like-minded people are attracted to living in a community with like-minded others," John Douillard, founder of LifeSpa, an Ayurvedic retreat in Boulder, told the Denver Post.
"Even if you're not health conscious, you're seeing cyclists by the side of the road with their work stuff on their back, or health-food stores on every corner, or everyone driving a Prius," he said.
“It rubs off.
"We've all become who we hang out with, because it's part of our community culture," said Douillard, author of "Body, Mind and Sport." More from the story:
Over a two-year period, Gallup took the pulse of the American public, quizzing 1,000 random people per day across the country about key elements of their lives: physical, emotional, social and professional, as well as their perceptions about
present and future possibilities.
The Well-Being Index asked questions about health habits — Did you smoke today? — and work environment — Do you like your job? The poll also asked respondents to evaluate their lives — Do you feel as though you are struggling? — and whether respondents had access to basic things, such as food, shelter and health care.
Though the American public started 2009 a bit in the dumps, logging a composite score of 64.1 out of a possible 100, by the end of December, the outlook was improved, at 66.1. A perfect score indicates "fully realized well-being."
Trouble spots for the nation include work environment (48.4) and life in general (49.3). Attitudes were buoyed by emotional health (78.7) and physical health (76.5) as well as basic access (82.3).
WHERE DO YOU LIVE? AND HOW DOES IT RANK? If you’d like to see where your city ranks in this massive study, click on the first link below and scroll down until you see the list of cities. Do you agree? Why or why not?
The USA Today story and the city rankings:
The Denver Post story: