Mind and Body
Happiest States: The Healthiest State in America in 2018 Is Also the Happiest
Two surveys released by private companies this fall both provide testimony that one state is both the happiest and healthiest place to live in the country. And for such a small state, the locale is really nailing it.
The ranking importantly was not published in a scientific journal, but personal finance company Wallethub crowned Hawaii the happiest state in America. Another ranking, released this week by UnitedHealth (a non-profit that also owns United Health Care and Optum) declared that Hawaii was also the number one healthiest state in America — it has held that title in four of the last five years.
Maybe the fact that Hawaii is at the top of both of these lists isn’t terribly surprising. In the earlier report, Wallethub based its determination on three metrics: emotional and physical well-being, work environment, and community and environment. But the Aloha state really took home the title because of its top ranking in the emotional and physical well-being category, which takes into account rates of adult depression (Hawaii’s are low) as well as measures of physical health like the sports participation and adequate sleep rates. That survey actually weighted the emotional and physical health twice as much than the other two metrics in their analysis — a decision which Wallethub say reflects the findings of the papers cited on “happiness research.”
This most recent report by United Healthcare takes into account behavioral and physical health statistics, like mental health and obesity rates, and also, because it’s affiliated with an insurance company, factors access to healthcare providers into their list. In terms of physical and mental health statistics, Hawaii also fairs well in their report.
They found that 9.5 of Hawaiians experience frequent emotional distress, which is lower than the 12.4 percent national average. Hawaii’s rates of obesity and smoking are both several percentage points below the national average. That said, Hawaii does have its struggles. They reported 21.4 new cases of Salmonella per 100,000 people population, whereas the national average is with 16.7 per 100,000. They also had higher levels of excessive drinking, and a slightly higher prevalence of diabetes.
Salmonella aside, Hawaiians have enjoyed time at the top nine times since the United Healthcare survey of healthiest states began in 1990. Last year it was knocked out of the top spot by Massachusetts, which this year, dropped to second in their ranking. In the United Healthcare ranking, Connecticut, Vermont and Utah round out the top five.
Making up the bottom end of the United Healthcare report are Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. 16.1 percent of adults in Louisiana report “frequent mental distress” and 16.5 report “frequent physical distress.” Both of those rates are higher than the national average. Interestingly, there is also some overlap here with the happiness report. Louisiana also ranks low on that list. In terms of happiness, the bottom five states are Oklahoma, Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, and West Virginia.
But overall, it seems like Hawaii is a tough state to beat in terms of health and happiness. Though, given the way that politics tend to stress some people out on a daily basis, poor mainland USA a never had a chance against the remote island state — which is about as far away from Washington D.C. as you can physically get.