We are in a rut.
Since the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index started publishing in 2008 Kentucky has been right at the bottom, just ahead of West Virginia. The index was published in newspapers and read on TV stations all across the country last week.
You love Kentucky. I love Kentucky and we know it is the best state in the union. But we do get tired of hearing those unflattering research polls that are published.
Why are we ranked 49th?
Although Mississippi has the highest obesity rate, Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas and Louisiana consistently has had high obesity rates. Smoking. Kentucky is number one in deaths caused by smoking and has the highest percentage of smokers (30.2%). Income, welfare, education, they all add up placing us near the bottom.
Hawaii and Alaska are at the top of the index for well-being. Though distinctively different, both are beautiful states. Montana, Colorado and Wyoming rounded out of the top five in the survey that was done by telephone nationwide. Joining Kentucky and West Virginia in the bottom five were Indiana, Ohio and Oklahoma.
Questions in the survey centered on Purpose (what do you do each day?) Social (do you have loving relationships?) Community (are you involved?), Financial (your income) and Physical (your health and energy).
The survey reported that Americans’ outlook on life is the best it has been in at least seven years. More Americans were “thriving” and fewer were “struggling.” In the first quarter of 2015 the lowest percentage of Americans struggling to afford food was the lowest since the surveys were begun.
We can move out of the bottom by exercising more and losing weight. Americans who report exercising for 30 minutes every day feel best about their physical appearance. I don’t drink but the survey found for people who drink in moderation, one to 14 drinks per week, experience less depression in their lifetime.
Americans who report that they usually get more hours of sleep per night have higher overall well-being than those who get fewer hours of sleep. Those who are active in their communities also have a higher overall well-being than those who do not. Get involved.
I have said for years and this index confirms it, make time for regular vacations. Americans who say they take regular trips have significantly higher well-being than those who say they do not, as measured by Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index scores, and this difference persists across all income groups.
When I worked for a mental health agency our director insisted that we take vacations. It doesn’t have to be costly, just get away from the daily grind.
Those who live in North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, have the highest Well-Being Index score (64.1) across the 100 most populous communities in the U.S., according to the Index. Rounding out the top five are Urban Honolulu, Hawaii; Raleigh, North Carolina; Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California; and El Paso, Texas.
We can move up in the ranking if we follow the rules for well-being. It has been a long fight for Kentuckians, but one that must receive priority.