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Among Large Cities, San Jose and D.C. Lead in Wellbeing

Among Large Cities, San Jose and D.C. Lead in Wellbeing

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect Gallup's re-estimate of its Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and Life Evaluation Index data from January 2008 to April 2009. Learn more about what Gallup discovered.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Among the nation's 52 largest metropolitan areas that Gallup surveyed in 2009, San Jose, Calif., had the highest wellbeing in the nation followed closely by Washington, D.C., according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Rounding out the top five wellbeing cities are Minneapolis, Raleigh, N.C., and San Francisco.

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Las Vegas ranked last in 2009 in overall wellbeing among all large cities, defined as those with a population size of 1 million or greater, with Providence, R.I.; Jackson, Fla.; Tampa, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; and Cleveland just ahead. Tampa, Jacksonville, and Miami gave the state of Florida the negative distinction of having three large metro areas in the bottom 10 in wellbeing for the year. Detroit, New Orleans, and Birmingham, Ala., round out the list. The regional breakdown in wellbeing scores is largely consistent with Gallup-Healthways state-level findings, which find higher than average scoring cities in the West and lower than average scoring cities in the South.

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For a full listing of the sample sizes and Well-Being Index scores for all medium and small metropolitan areas measured, see page 3.

The "cities" referenced in this article are based on the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. In many cases, more than one city is included in the same MSA. The San Jose metropolitan statistical area, for example, also includes the smaller nearby cities of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara in addition to San Jose itself. Each respondent is attributed to his or her MSA based on the self-report of his or her ZIP code, and all large metropolitan areas had sample sizes ranging from 969 (New Orleans) to 16,772 (New York).

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index score measures for each city an average of six sub-indexes, which individually examine life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and access to basic necessities. The overall composite score and each of the six sub-indexes' scores are calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 represents fully realized wellbeing. Gallup and Healthways initiated the Well-Being Index in January 2008.

San Jose, Minneapolis Share Top Honors in Two Well-Being Sub-Indexes Each

Of the six sub-indexes that comprise the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, San Jose and Minneapolis had the highest scores on two indexes each in 2009 (Physical Health and Healthy Behaviors in San Jose and Emotional Health and Basic Access in Minneapolis), while Buffalo, N.Y.; Louisville; Providence; and Las Vegas scored lowest on each of the same measures, respectively. Raleigh had the top score in the Work Environment Index, which was anchored by Cleveland at the bottom. The highest Life Evaluation Index score was in Washington, D.C., and the lowest in Tampa.

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For more information on what each sub-index comprises, see page 2.

Looking more in-depth at the individual questions that make up each of the sub-indexes reveals the specific strengths and weaknesses of each of the cities that performed best and worst overall. For example, in terms of the Work Environment Index, residents in Raleigh were much more likely than those in Cleveland to say they were satisfied with their jobs, they had a positive relationship with their supervisor, they were able to use their strengths at work, and they found their workplaces to be trusting environments. San Jose's high Healthy Behaviors Index score is boosted by its high percentage of non-smokers, 86.9%. Compare this with the 70.2% of non-smokers in Louisville.

In terms of basic access, Minneapolis and Las Vegas are at opposite ends of the spectrum regarding access to health insurance and to adequate shelter at all times of the year. Underlying Washington D.C.'s top score on the Life Evaluation Index is the 60.4% of residents who are "thriving." In Tampa, on the other hand, 45.9% of citizens were categorized as thriving in 2009.

Bottom Line

Leaders should be mindful of the wellbeing of the residents in their respective cities, as it has potential ramifications for economic development, law and order, and a sense of shared pride and purpose. The city wellbeing comparisons can also help to reveal best practices to celebrate for some and a call to arms for others.

The high-level results discussed in this article are just the beginning of what can be learned and will be revealed for U.S. cities through the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index metrics. Even the cities with the highest overall wellbeing have specific areas in need of improvement, and even those with the lowest overall wellbeing have strengths that could be celebrated or used for residents' benefits. With a true understanding of these strengths and weaknesses, leaders have the ability to more effectively make strategic and tactical decisions to affect positive change.

Learn more about the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Gallup's "State of the States" series reveals state-by-state differences on political, economic, and wellbeing measures Gallup tracks each day. New stories will be released throughout the month of February.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with more than 353,000 American adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 2- Dec. 29, 2009.

For annual results based on the stated total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±0.2 percentage points.

The Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) that are characterized in this article are defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Maximum expected error ranges for the MSAs vary according to size, ranging from less than one percentage point for the largest cities represented to ±3.1% for the smallest. Only "large" MSAs (populations of 1 million or more) are included in this article. Sample sizes and the overall Well-Being Index composite score for all 52 cities surveyed are shown in the following table.

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Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only and cell phone mostly).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index measures the daily pulse of U.S. wellbeing and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

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