Top 10 U.S. Cities for Well-Being

Philip Moeller
March 7, 2012

Ask people how they feel about themselves and odds are, you'll get the most positive responses from people who live in metro areas with universities and in the West, according to Gallup's annual survey of national well-being.

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Gallup looked at 190 metro areas using a scale in which 100 represented ideal resident perceptions of their living conditions. The top 10 metros in overall well-being are:

Lancaster, Pa. (72.9 score)

Charlottesville, Va. (72.5)

Ann Arbor, Mich. (71.9).

Provo-Orem, Utah (71.2)

Boulder, Colo. (71.1)

Honolulu (70.7)

Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif. (70.6)

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (70.6)

Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo. (70.5)

Appleton, Wis. (70.4)

After Lancaster, the next four areas on the list are all major college towns, Gallup noted. Its findings are part of its partnership with Healthways, a Tennessee-based provider of health and wellness programs offered through health insurers. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is a daily measure based on at least 1,000 interviews conducted each day. The annual metro ratings were based on 2011 telephone interviews with more than 350,000 adults.

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The overall well-being rankings represent an average of the areas' rankings in six specific areas: life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities.

Here are the metro areas with the highest and lowest index scores in each of these six areas:

Life evaluation: Ann Arbor, Mich. (64.8); Hickory-Lenoir-Morgantown, N.C. (32.2)

Emotional health: Honolulu (84.2); Kingsport-Bristol, Tenn.-Va. (73.6)

Work environment: Prescott, Ariz. (64.9); Flint, Mich. (31.7)

Physical health: Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo. (82.0); Huntington-Ashland, W.V.-Ky.-Ohio (67.8)

Health behaviors: Barnstable, Mass. (72.8); Fort Smith, Ark.-Okla. (56.5)

Basic access: Appleton, Wis. (89.4); McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (71.2)

Within the rankings, Gallup said, there were more detailed findings about specific perceptions that can have a big affect on health and well-being:

Work. One contribution to Lancaster's top well-being ranking is that working residents feel their employment supervisors strongly support them. In turn, Gallup explained, "this can lead to decreased chances of poor health and less susceptibility to the potential negative effects of long commutes."

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Civility. If you want respect, Charlottesville is the nation's top city in terms of residents treating each other with respect, Gallup reported.

Teeth. In Boulder, more than 80 percent of residents said they visit their dentist at least once a year, which was top in the nation. Poor oral health, Gallup noted, may also be a sign of serious chronic illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Learning. The college towns of Boulder, Provo, and Ann Arbor were tops in residents' perceptions that they were learning new and interesting things.

Exercise. San Jose was the top-ranked big metro area, and 10th-best overall, in providing people with safe places to exercise.

While the pollsters relied on people's own assessments of how they feel, such self-reported measures tend to agree with objective data measuring various aspects of physical and emotional health.

Twitter: @PhilMoeller