Where to Live for the Best Well-Being
The location of your home can make a big impact on your health and well-being in many ways. After all, there’s a big difference in weather between Montana and Arizona; someone who grew up in a rural setting might have a little trouble adapting to New York City; and in some places, people are simply more outgoing and sociable than in others.
Now, it’s certainly true that the old cliché “different strokes for different folks” does apply, and what one person loves about a community another might hate. But in general, there are certain factors that make a place more livable for all of us, and with that as a guiding premise, a new poll has released results for the best and worst communities around the United States for overall well-being.1
This report, conducted by Gallup and Healthways, considered 189 various communities throughout the country and ranked them for a variety of residential aspects. The researchers used a scale of 0 to 100 to assign each community points based on the residents’ responses. The factors that they considered were:
- Purpose: Residents’ level of happiness with their daily routines and motivation to accomplish tasks.
- Social: Whether residents report having meaningful relationships in which they receive love and support.
- Financial: The effect of residents’ economic realities that create either stress or a sense of security.
- Community: Do residents generally like their neighborhood, taking pride in where they live and feeling safe there?
- Physical: Addressing whether residents are essentially in good health and have sufficient energy.
After more than 350,000 telephone interviews with adults throughout all 50 states, the researchers concluded that the community with the highest well-being ranking is Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida. Before you say, sure, of course the number one spot goes to an area in sunny Florida, the number two community—which was only one-tenth of a point behind—was Barnstable Town, Massachusetts. The remainder of the top 10 list rounded out with Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California; urban Honolulu, Hawaii; Charlottesville, Virginia; North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California; Lynchburg, Virginia; Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, South Carolina; and Boulder, Colorado.
At the other end of the spectrum (which, in fairness, was only five to 10 points below the top scorers), Fort Smith on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border received the lowest ranking. Others included Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, North Carolina; Huntington-Ashland, on the West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio border; and Topeka, Kansas.
While there are certain factors that may be out of your control about the area in which you live, we can all do our best to make improvements to our neighborhoods and to our well-being—whether we reside in a community listed here as one of the best, worst, or somewhere in between. Remember that many of the categories the researchers considered are subjective, and we can influence them for the better with a little effort and a positive outlook.
For instance, the category of “purpose” is determined more by your mental state than anything else. You may not love the job you’re at, but if that’s the case, make the effort to find other work or maybe take a class or two that can help you change direction. Also, we are not solely defined by our jobs, so even if that’s somewhat of a negative for you, focus on another positive way to spend your time, such as volunteering for a meaningful cause.
Each one of these areas can be improved upon if you are willing to try. Nurture your relationships through quality time spent with those you care about. Build more of a sense of community by getting involved in local activities and getting to know your neighbors. Financial struggles might be more challenging for some, but list your expenses and income in order to work out a budget that might lessen your stress if money is tight. And embrace a healthy lifestyle to maintain or improve your physical well-being. Not only will that make you feel better as you go through your daily routines, but it will also go a long way to giving you a great mental outlook and help brighten your perception of your community and your world in general.
And if you’re really living in a place that you feel is irredeemable, your best option may just be to bite the bullet and move. If where you are isn’t working for you and is never going to work for you, then starting over someplace else may be the thing to do.
- 1. "Gallup-Healthways 2016 Community Well-Being Rankings." Well-Being Index. 7 March 2017. Accessed 12 March 2017. http://www.well-beingindex.com/2016-community-rankings.