Virginia’s ranking drops in nationwide survey of perceptions of well-being

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Virginia ranks 24th among the 50 states, down 10 spots, from last year in an annual survey of Americans’ sense of well-being.

North Dakota ranked first, and West Virginia was last in the latest ranking of Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, now in its sixth year.

The index is based on 178,000 interviews conducted nationwide last year examining Americans’ perceptions on topics such as physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and health care.

The 10 states with the highest sense of well-being in the nation are:
• North Dakota
• South Dakota
• Nebraska
• Minnesota
• Montana
• Vermont
• Colorado
• Hawaii
• Washington
• Iowa

The 10 states with the lowest sense of well-being are:
• West Virginia
• Kentucky
• Mississippi
• Alabama
• Ohio
• Arkansas
• Tennessee
• Missouri
• Oklahoma
• Louisiana

Iowa, Nebraska, Vermont, Hawaii, Minnesota, Montana and Colorado have been in the top 10 for two years straight.

Virginia fell from No. 14 in last year’s list. By category, the commonwealth this year ranked 17th in life evaluation, 32nd in emotional health, 38th in working environment, 20th in physical health, 28th in healthy behaviors and 15th in access to basic necessities.

Virginia’s overall ranking of 24th is the lowest it has recorded in the six years the index has been compiled. Its highest ranking was 13th in 2009.

Nearly 5,000 interviews were conducted in Virginia as part of the study.

Certain states have consistently ranked well in certain categories, according to the survey.

Colorado, for example, has ranked at or near the best in the nation for the lowest obesity rate, and Utah has the lowest smoking rate.

The authors of the report note that research shows a strong link between well-being, health-care costs and engagement in the workplace.

Each point in well-being improvement, they say, equates to a statistically significant percent decrease in the likelihood of hospital admission and emergency room visits and in the likelihood of incurring health-care costs.

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