TIME MAGAZINE - U.S. Cities

North Port - Sarasota - Bradenton, Florida

Tops the Communities with the Greatest Well-Being in America

by Victor Luckerson / April 7, 2015

 

If you want to live somewhere where you’ll find financial prosperity, a strong community and a sense of purpose, you should consider moving to southern Florida, according to a new poll.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida, has the highest Well-Being Index score (64.1) across the 100 most populous communities in the U.S., according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Rounding out the top five are Urban Honolulu, Hawaii; Raleigh, North Carolina; Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California; and El Paso, Texas.Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pennsylvania, has the lowest overall well-being in the country, as well as the lowest purpose and social well-being. The four communities rounding out the bottom five in terms of overall well-being are Toledo, Ohio; Knoxville, Tennessee; Dayton, Ohio; and Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Indiana. The state of Ohio has five communities among the ten ranked for lowest overall well-being.

Implications

The communities with the highest well-being often have many shared characteristics that are much less common among their lower well-being counterparts. The characteristics distinguishing high well-being communities are multifaceted, often spanning multiple well-being elements.

For example, residents of high well-being communities exercise more frequently -- an important aspect of physical well-being -- but they are also more likely to report that someone close to them encourages them to be healthy, a critical component of social well-being. They are much less likely to be obese, they have fewer significant chronic health conditions, and they feel safe where they live. Those who feel safe where they live are, in turn, more likely to have access to a safe place to exercise and access to fresh produce, which are important community characteristics that are linked to lower levels of obesity.

While those living in high well-being communities are more likely to have basic access to food and healthcare, they are also more likely to manage their money effectively and to live within their means, which are crucial components of financial well-being. People in high well-being communities also report being able to use their strengths on any given day and are more likely to learn new and interesting things, two key aspects of purpose well-being.

Ultimately, residents of the top well-being places in the U.S. are more likely to be thriving across each of the five critical elements of well-being, thus capitalizing on the synergistic benefits of each element acting in concert with one another. This may reflect what is perhaps the most important factor separating the nation's high well-being communities from those with lower well-being: a holistic view of well-being. Leaders in lower well-being communities can study and adapt the distinguishing features of high well-being communities to enhance the overall health of their residents.

"Improving and sustaining high well-being is vital to any population's overall health and economy," says Janet Calhoun, senior vice president at Healthways. "State, local and business leaders should consider specific well-being interventions that make the healthy choice the easy choice for their population. A comprehensive long-term environmental strategy creates not only a healthier population, but also a more productive workforce and a more robust economy."