For the past 11 years, the Gallup organization has done an interesting study where they rate every state in the country across five elements of well-being.

Combine them, and you get a pretty good assessment of how the states compare in terms of health and happiness. 

For the past eight years, the top state on their well-being list has been one that probably won't surprise anyone: Hawaii.

The state that came in dead last has done so every single year for the past decade.  Actually, I'm sorry to report that across the country, overall well-being declined slightly for the last two years. 

First, we'll share the five elements, and then we'll list each of the 50 states in order. The five elements in this are described by Gallup as:

  • Career well-being: "liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals;"
  • Social well-being: "having supportive relationships and love in your life;"
  • Financial well-being: "managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security;"
  • Community well-being: "liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community;" and
  • Physical well-being: "having good health and enough energy to get things done daily."

We might quibble on a few of these, but the definitions seem pretty sound. Here's how all 50 states compared, so you can see where yours is on the list.

You might also think of it as a guide to help you decide where to expand your business, or seek to hire more workers.

1.    Hawaii

No big shock, right? I've been a couple of times, and it's beautiful. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, it isn't just the weather. It ranked #1 in three categories: career, social, and financial. 

2.    Wyoming

Number 1 in community, number 3 in careers. 

3.    Alaska

Top of the charts for physical well-being, and number 2 for financial well-being. It's interesting that Alaska and Hawaii, both high cost of living states, ranked so high for finances.

4.    Montana

Near the top for both careers and community. People work hard there, but as they say, if you love what you do, you'll never really work a hard day in your life.

5.    Utah

Near the top for both careers and community, too.

6.    Colorado

Number 2 for physical well-being, and top 11 for everything else. 

7.    Vermont

I just spent a few days there; it seemed pretty solid to me. Its only out-of-the-top-10 category was for careers. Maybe that's why they're paying people with remote jobs to move there.

8.    Delaware

Number 2 for social, number 4 for financial. It's a small state, but parts of it are really quite nice.

9.    South Dakota

A bit of a surprise that other neighboring states rank much better for physical well-being, but for careers, finance, and community it ranks high.

10.    North Dakota

Similar regions, similar rankings to South Dakota.

11.    New Hampshire

Its overall high ranking comes despite being #45 for careers.

12.    Minnesota

Middle-of-the-road rankings, I have to say, except for financial and community, which pull it up.

13.    Washington

Good ranks for financial and physical well-being, especially.

14.    California

It hardly seems fair to compare states sometimes, when you put giant, diverse ones like California on a list. Overall it ranked low (39) for community, and high (#9) for physical well-being.

15.    Arizona

Interesting: #8 for career well-being. Overall, a nice solid performance.

16.    Connecticut

Of all categories, it's physical well-being for Connecticut that drives its ranking into the top third: number 5.

17.    Massachusetts

Neighboring states, neighboring rankings: Massachusetts does a bit better than Connecticut for social; a bit worse for physical.

18.    Nebraska

A very flat rating: between 10 and 30 in all five categories.

19.    Nevada

Sometimes these rankings just fit the stereotypes: Near the bottom for community and physical well-being, top 20 for career, social, and financial.

20.    Florida

Good for Florida, #5 for social relationships. Bottom five for financial well-being, though.

21.    Maine

On the other end of I-95, Maine scores well for community; midling for everything else.

22.    Idaho

Number 3 for community. Below 20 for all others. Yet Californians are still moving there in big numbers.

23.    Georgia

A low financial well-being score pulls Georgia down.

24.    Wisconsin

Interesting dichotomy: it does pretty well in financial and community well-being (#14 in both). But career and social drag it down (#39 and #40). 

25.    Rhode Island

A small state, the place where I grew up, and it's right in the middle of the pack. If careers ranked higher here, maybe more of us would have stayed.

26.    Iowa

Nice place. Number 10 for community well-being, number 15 for financial.

27.    Virginia

No single element pulls Virginia up or down. It ranks between 23 and 30 in all five categories.

28.    Oregon

Near the bottom for career well-being; a respectable #15 for physical.

29.    Texas

I'm surprised Texas didn't score higher, but it is a diverse, giant place. Financial well-being dragged it down (#43).

30.    New Mexico

It's interesting how many states that border one another ranked consecutively. But for Texas and New Mexico, the individual elements were all out of whack. New Mexico came in #9 for careers and #18 for physical well-being.

31.    New Jersey

As a current resident of the Garden State, I've often remarked that it's basically bigger version of Rhode Island, where I grew up. But the ranking here is #9 for career well-being and #40 for community, which seems pretty on point.

32.    Maryland

Let's accentuate the positive: #14 for social, #18 for financial. Community at #47 drags it down.

33.    Michigan

Flat 30s across the board; highest rank was 30 for physical, and lowest was 34 for careers.

34.    Pennsylvania

Again, very flat -- the kind of state for which a slight improvement in any one ranking could probably bump it up a few places overall. 

35.    Kansas

Kansas came in 46th for social well-being, but gets a gentleman's C in everything else, so to speak.

36.    North Carolina

Another mild surprise, given the sheer number of native northerners I know who have relocated there. 

37.    New York

Like California and Texas, it almost seems unfair to rank this entire state against say, Delaware, and pretend it's not as diverse as it is. That said: #22 for physical well-being on the high end, and #46(!) for careers on the low. I guess making good money doesn't mean you actually like your job.

38.    Ohio

There's a lot going on in Ohio, but it's basically nondescript in these rankings. Every element is between #31 and #39.

39.    South Carolina

A high of 19 for career well-being; a low of 41 for physical.

40.    Missouri

Almost all of Missouri's scores are low. Its best showing is #29 for careers.

41.    Indiana

Best showing was #31 for careers; worst comes in at 44 for physical.

42.    Illinois

Again with the contiguous states: its rankings are almost identical to Indiana's as well.

43.    Louisiana

Number 12 for social; everything else is pretty low. Next week is Fat Tuesday, by the way, but there's always a party there. 

44.    Alabama

Top 20 for community and careers; 37, 45, and 48 for everything else.

45.    Oklahoma

Not the worst in anything; not better than 37 in anything else.

46.    Tennessee

The bottom five states are all in the South and Appalachia. Tennessee's best ranking is #30 for community.

47.    Mississippi

Number 47 isn't great, but for a state that hears "thank God for Mississippi" all to often, it's not that terrible. For careers, it actually ranked #29.

48.    Kentucky

We really should use this list to prompt a discussion of what to do to improve people's lives in these bottom-ranking states. Kentucky came in 47th in two categories and 49th in another.

49.    Arkansas

Arkansas came in dead last for social and financial well-being, and its top performer was #38 for community.

50.    West Virginia

Just a bad showing, and I'm sorry to say this happens year in and year out. West Virginia was dead last in career, community, and physical well-being, and it ranked #49 in social and #48 in financial well-being. One hopes to see some improvement; truly a small step up in almost any category could pull it out of the bottom spot. 

Published on: Mar 1, 2019
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