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These Are America’s Happiest and Healthiest Cities

3 minute read

Do you like what you do? And do you get to use your strengths every day?

People in Naples, Fla. and Barnstable, Mass. largely answered yes to those questions when surveyed by Gallup-Sharecare, boosting their communities to the top of a new ranking of U.S. metro areas based on well-being. Other top communities include Boulder, Colo., Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa, Calif., and Charlottesville and Lynchburg, Va.

The researchers, who surveyed more than 337,000 people across America over the phone in 2016 and 2017, found that enjoying your work and learning new and interesting things every day are strong predictors of overall well-being, which includes physical, social, financial and community health.

“If you you’re using your strengths every day, it lends a real buoyancy to everything else,” says lead researcher Dan Witters. For example, people who are engaged at work report less daily stress and physical pain, and they have lower rates of obesity and depression, Witters says.

Highest Well-Being Communities

Communities with the lowest well-being scores were mostly found in the Midwestern and Southern U.S., with Fort Smith, Ark. at the bottom of the list. While these areas are named for the largest nearby city, they often encompass rural towns, which tend to have less access to health care, parks and gyms. That hurts the area’s overall well-being, though residents of small towns are more likely to feel a sense of pride in their community and say they feel safe and secure, according to the report.

Lowest Well-Being Communities

While high-income communities tend to report higher well-being, the trend is not universal, as seen in the chart below. Use the search bar to see how your metro area compares to other communities in well-being and household income.

McAllen, Texas, had the lowest median income on the list, and residents were less likely to have health insurance and access to fresh food than survey respondents in many other parts of the country. But McAllen ranked 27th out of 186 communities in overall well-being, because those surveyed reported feeling a strong sense of purpose, measured by respondents’ reports of enthusiasm for the future and success in reaching their goals.

Strong community ties also boosted McAllen’s ranking, even beating San Jose, Calif., which had the highest median income on the list, at over $100,000 annually, but came in 32nd for well-being. While people in the San Jose area tend to have strong physical and financial health, they’re in the middle of the pack nationally when it comes to feeling a sense of belonging in their community.

“Overall, well-being improves with income. That’s a big part of the story for San Jose,” Witters says. “But it by no means assures that you’re going to be giving back to your community, or that you’re going to be feeling a lot of love in your life.”

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