The Well-Being Journal

The State of the States: America's Well-Being Wins & Woes

Jennifer Rudloff

Holding strong to their number one position, the people of the Aloha State seemingly hold the secret to high well-being. Between the sunshine and the beaches there are people thriving in emotional health and healthy behaviors. So who else is doing it right? Alaskans see the sunny side of life and score highest in life evaluation, a measure of their current life situation and their optimism for the future. Vermont leads with healthy behaviors. Massachusetts continues to come in at the top with basic access, and residents of North Dakota are whistling while they work, coming in with the highest work environment scores.

On the other end of the well-being spectrum, we find West Virginia and Kentucky maintaining their positions as the states with the lowest well-being. The people of West Virginia continue to struggle with the lowest life evaluation and physical health. Consistent with the last 3 years, the people of the Bluegrass State perform worst in emotional health; and Mississippi residents perform lowest in the area of basic access. What is the state with the lowest work environment index score? Louisiana beat out Delaware for this title for the first time since 2009. And Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains, unhealthy behaviors are also sweeping through the countryside.

As you can probably see from the color clusters in the map above, there are some patterns of well-being by geographical region. Chances are if you’re in the south, not so well. Eight of the eleven states with the lowest well-being are in the South. Four of the top seven states are located in the West, and five Midwestern states and three Eastern states rank in the top twelve.

STATE Well-Being
Index Score
Hawaii 71.1 Above Average
North Dakota 70.5 Above Average
Alaska 69.4 Above Average
Nebraska 68.4 Above Average
Minnesota 68.3 Above Average
Colorado 68.3 Above Average
Utah 68.1 Above Average
Iowa 67.9 Above Average
New Hampshire 67.9 Above Average
Kansas 67.8 Above Average
Maryland 67.8 Above Average
Vermont 67.8 Above Average
Massachussetts 67.7 Above Average
South Dakota 67.6 Above Average
Virginia 67.6 Above Average
California 67.5 Above Average
Washington 67.2 Above Average
Oregon 67.2 Above Average
Montana 67.1 Average
Conneticut 66.9 Average
Arizona 66.9 Average
New Mexico 66.8 Average
Idaho 66.7 Average
Wisconsin 66.6 Average
Maine 66.6 Average
Texas 66.6 Average
New Jersey 66.5 Average
Wyoming 66.5 Average
North Carolina 66.5 Average
Rhode Island 66.2 Average
Illinois 66.2 Average
Georgia 66.2 Average
Deleware 66 Average
Nevada 65.9 Average
Pennsylvania 65.8 Below Average
Michigan 65.8 Below Average
South Carolina 65.7 Below Average
Florida 65.4 Below Average
New York 65.2 Below Average
Missouri 65.1 Below Average
Alabama 65.1 Below Average
Indiana 64.9 Below Average
Arkansas 64.9 Below Average
Oklahoma 64.8 Below Average
Tennessee 64.7 Below Average
Louisiana 64.6 Below Average
Ohio 64.4 Below Average
Mississippi 63.6 Below Average
Kentucky 63 Below Average
West Virginia 62.4 Below Average

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks U.S. well-being and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

Topics: Top 10 Well-Being Index Healthways State Rankings Gallup Well-Being

Insights from a Chief Well-Being Officer: Trends in America's Well-Being

Jennifer Rudloff

John Harris, Chief Well-Being Officer at Healthways, talks about trends that have been revealed about the state of America's well-being since the inception of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

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To learn more about the index, visit

Topics: Basic Access Predictions Work Environment Physical Health Emotional Health Well-Being Index Life Evaluation Healthways Wellness Trends Gallup Healthy Living

The Origin and Value of the Well-Being Index

Jennifer Rudloff

In my last blog I defined well-being as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social health and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” a definition consistent with the World Health Organization’s definition of health as written in 1946. I also mentioned that it was this basic definition that helped give birth to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® (WBI). Here, however, I’ll provide more information on the origin of the WBI, the value we’ve derived from it already, and the value we plan to derive well into the future.

Going back a few years, both Gallup and Healthways worked with the Center for Health Transformation, a collaboration of private and public sector leaders committed to creating a 21st century intelligent health system that saves lives and money for all Americans. Brought together by a common cause, Gallup and Healthways merged decades of behavioral research, development expertise and health leadership to lead the U.S. in its understanding of health and well-being and provide workable solutions for a healthier nation. In January 2008, we established a 25-year partnership for American health transformation.

What is the Well-Being Index? It’s the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to measure who is feeling good about life and who is in need of a helping hand. With well over a million surveys already collected, it provides a comprehensive, real-time view of Americans’ well-being, giving communities, governments, health plans and employers unmatched insight into the health and prosperity of their constituencies. The WBI draws upon data obtained from 1,000 in-depth representative surveys almost all days of each year. It’s the largest behavioral database in existence tracking life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and basic access to necessities like food and shelter. As such it is, the “pulse of America.”

Our research has shown that total well-being is complex and has many interrelated factors that impact individuals. For an accurate measure of well-being, we must take a comprehensive approach. The WBI is the first survey that takes into account all factors that affect well-being and examines how they interrelate. It measures the nation’s collective responses and provides a benchmark. Healthways has leveraged the research from the WBI to create the Healthways Well-Being Assessment™, a tool that captures the well-being of an organization at a population and an individual level. I’ll talk more about this tool in a later post.

There are many values of the data we collect, including:

  • An up-to-date view of Americans’ ongoing well-being, with insight into work environment and social, emotional and physical health
  • Exploration into how well-being impacts health and productivity in the workplace and community to design programs that have higher yield
  • Cultivation of wellness in the workplace for a more productive, healthy, present and engaged workforce
  • Application of best practices to create a work culture and programs where well-being is paramount
  • An understanding of key drivers of well-being so organizations can make informed decisions and take the most appropriate actions to improve overall health, engagement, productivity and business performance.

In addition to our work in the U.S., we recently launched a WBI in the UK and Germany. In the U.S., we now have over 1.5 million surveys completed which has continued to help us define well-being and understand what improving it means, both in terms of health impact and personal/business performance.

I’ll provide much more on our findings and the topic of well-being in the months ahead. In the meantime, I hope this helps create a foundation for the science behind our work, how we collect data, and how we turn data into value.

Let me know how this sounds to you. Does this approach make sense? Do you see any gaps? Any other ideas on how we might use the data? We really want to know!

Topics: Well-Being Well-Being Index Metrics Healthways Gallup