The Top Communities Help You Achieve Overall Well-Being
There are five key elements of well-being, and you need to score high across all of them if you want to achieve overall health and happiness:
- Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
- Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
- Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
- Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community
- Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily
That is according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-being Index, an ongoing measurement of well-being with more than 2.5 million surveys recorded to date.
Unfortunately, in 2017 the national US well-being had the largest year-over-year decline in the 10-year history of the Well-Being Index. And there were two key elements of well-being that declined most sharply: Purpose and Social.
You simply must like what you do and have strong relationships if you want to live well.
In fact, research has shown that knowing your sense of purpose adds up to 7 years of extra life expectancy and social connection is the greatest predictor of overall happiness.
While traditional metrics of health, such as exercise (30+ minutes at least 3 days per week) and smoking, have continued to improve in the US, they are not enough to offset our deeper emotional needs.
However, there are some communities that are getting it right.
For the third straight year, Naples, FL, topped the charts as the healthiest and happiest community in America. Naples placed among the top two communities in the nation across all five elements of well-being, including #1 in purpose, social, and financial.
And it didn’t get there by accident.
Naples has been part of a well-being initiative known as the Blue Zones Project, which mobilizes local workplaces, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, and faith-based organizations to optimize environments for healthy living. Over a sustained period of time, the Blue Zones Project led purpose workshops, got the community active, improved the food options, and created healthier workplaces.
Other standout places to live, rounding out the top 5 in well-being, include Barnstable, MA, Boulder, CO, Santa Cruz, CA, and Charlottesville, VA.
On the other end of the spectrum, Fort Smith, Arkansas-Oklahoma, was at the bottom of the list. Communities with the lowest scores were mostly located in the Midwest and South.
Overall well-being does tend to improve with higher income, but that isn’t always the case. For example, McAllen, TX had the lowest median income on the list, and yet ranked 27th overall because they feel such a strong sense of purpose. Whereas San Jose had the highest median income on the list (over $100,000 annually), but finished 32nd on the list. Making a lot of money helps, but you need more.
My key takeaways are that financial security and physical health are basic needs — without them, you will most likely struggle.
But loving what you do, having close relationships, and feeling close to your community creates the special sauce to truly live well.