For the fourth year in a row, Hawaii residents are the happiest and healthiest in the nation, a new study finds.
The research from Gallup found that Hawaii topped this year' s Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which ranks states based on more than 50 different wellbeing items in six different categories: life evaluation, work environment, emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors and access to basic necessities.
Contributing to Hawaii's top ranking is its work environment, which was ranked as the best in the nation. Specifically, Gallup measured workplace issues such as whether a worker has a trusting and open work environment and whether an employee is able to use their strengths to do what they do best every day. On the flip side, employees rated Rhode Island as having the worst work environment.
In addition to its positive workplace atmosphere, Hawaii residents were most likely to rate their lives as thriving and were most likely to experience daily enjoyment. They were also least likely to have daily worry or stress, which contributed to their high emotional health.
Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, and Vermont, which had the highest percentage of residents who ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four days per week, rounded out the top five states with the highest wellbeing scores.
At the bottom of the rankings is West Virginia, which has the highest percentage of obese residents in the nation. Also, West Virginians had the worst emotional health in the nation and were more likely to report being diagnosed with depression than residents of any other state.
Other states in the Well-Being Index's bottom five were Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Overall, the research shows wellbeing in the U.S. has remained mostly unchanged over the last five years. The study's authors believe the lack of progress among the states with the lowest wellbeing scores may be related to low income levels, since nearly all of the states with the lowest wellbeing scores in 2012 also had the lowest median household incomes.
Researchers said public education efforts, particularly those targeting low-income Americans, may be essential to helping the states with the lowest wellbeing to make significant year-over-year improvements. In addition, with past studies showing that Americans who are engaged in their work are more likely to report having a healthier lifestyle, the researchers believe employers have a responsibility in helping to improve wellbeing. They think businesses should focus on creating an engaged workplace to help reduce the economic costs of low wellbeing, as well as establish incentives and policies that encourage their employees to practice healthy behaviors.
The research was based on surveys of more than 350,000 Americans nationwide.