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For Older Adults, Hawaii Leads U.S. States in Well-Being

For Older Adults, Hawaii Leads U.S. States in Well-Being

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Hawaii again leads U.S. in well-being among older residents
  • West Virginia's older residents have lowest well-being
  • Hawaii, Arizona among top five states in three well-being elements

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the second consecutive year, Hawaii led all U.S. states in well-being among residents aged 55 and over, with a Well-Being Index score of 67.0. The other four states with a Well-Being Index score of 65 or higher are Arizona, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Colorado. West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio and Indiana are the states with the lowest well-being among older residents, unchanged from last year.

States With Highest and Lowest Well-Being Among Residents Aged 55+
  State Well-Being Index Score State Well-Being Index Score
  Hawaii 67.0 West Virginia 59.9
  Arizona 65.2 Kentucky 61.2
  New Hampshire 65.2 Oklahoma 62.0
  North Dakota 65.2 Ohio 62.5
  Colorado 65.1 Indiana 62.7
  Alaska 64.9 Vermont 62.7
  Minnesota 64.9 Georgia 62.9
  Wisconsin 64.9 Missouri 62.9
  Iowa 64.7 Arkansas 62.9
  South Dakota 64.7 New Jersey 62.9
Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Q1 2015 through Q1 2016

These state-level data are based on more than 115,000 interviews with U.S. adults across all 50 states, conducted from Jan. 2, 2015, through March 31, 2016. The Well-Being Index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 represents the lowest possible well-being and 100 represents the highest possible well-being. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index scores for the nation and for each state consist of metrics affecting overall well-being and each of the five essential elements of well-being:

  • 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

In most cases, a difference of 1.0 point in the Well-Being Index score between any two states represents a statistically significant gap.

Hawaii Leads All States in Three Elements of Well-Being

Hawaii holds the highest well-being of older residents in three of the five elements: purpose, community and physical well-being. Older residents of Arizona, South Carolina and Florida report the highest social well-being, while those living in North Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota lead in financial well-being. Across the five elements, Hawaii and Arizona each rank among the top five states three times, while Iowa, New Hampshire and North Dakota each appear twice.

West Virginia's older residents report the lowest purpose, social and physical well-being, and rank among the five states with the lowest well-being in all five elements. Older residents of Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana have the lowest financial well-being, while those living in New Jersey, West Virginia and Maryland report the lowest community well-being.

States With Highest Well-Being Across Each Element
  Purpose Social Financial Community Physical
  Hawaii Arizona North Dakota Hawaii Hawaii
  Mississippi South Carolina Iowa Montana Colorado
  Texas Florida Minnesota North Dakota New Hampshire
  Arizona New Hampshire Alaska South Dakota Connecticut
  Alabama Maryland Wisconsin Iowa Arizona
States With Lowest Well-Being Across Each Element
  Purpose Social Financial Community Physical
  West Virginia West Virginia Mississippi New Jersey West Virginia
  Vermont Wyoming Georgia West Virginia Kentucky
  Kentucky Vermont Louisiana Maryland Oklahoma
  Massachusetts Montana South Carolina Illinois Arkansas
  New Jersey Kentucky West Virginia Connecticut Tennessee
Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Q1 2015 through Q1 2016

Older Residents of New Hampshire Have Largest Well-Being Advantage

New Hampshire's older residents have the largest well-being advantage compared with the general population of the state, with residents aged 55 or older having a Well-Being Index score of 65.2 compared with 62.1 for residents overall -- a difference of 3.1 points. For comparison, older adults in the U.S. generally have higher well-being compared with the broader adult population, with an average gap of 1.7 points. The well-being edge for New Hampshire's older residents significantly boosts its state ranking from 21st for the overall population to the third-highest among residents aged 55 and older. Three other states with notably higher well-being among older residents compared with the general population are North Dakota, Mississippi and Oregon.

States in Which Well-Being of Older Residents Is Most Significantly Better Than That of All Residents
  Well-Being Index Score Well-Being Index Score Difference
  All adults 55 and older  
New Hampshire 62.1 65.2 3.1
North Dakota 62.3 65.2 2.9
Mississippi 60.9 63.8 2.9
Oregon 61.7 64.3 2.6

The older residents in four states have a much smaller advantage or no advantage in well-being compared with the overall population: Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Alaska. In each of these states, the Well-Being Index score among older residents is the same as or only slightly higher than the score found among all adults in the state.

States in Which Well-Being of Older Residents Is Closest to That of All Residents
  Well-Being Index Score Well-Being Index Score Difference
  All adults 55 and older  
Wyoming 63.5 63.5 0.0
Montana 63.8 64.2 0.4
Utah 63.1 63.8 0.7
Alaska 64.1 64.9 0.8
Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Q1 2015 through Q1 2016

Each of these four states ranked in the top 10 for highest overall well-being in 2015. So while there is not a large jump in well-being among older residents, the high well-being found among the general adult population is preserved. These results suggest that one common characteristic of the nation's states with the highest well-being is high well-being across age groups rather than just among those who are older, underscoring a broader and deeper culture of well-being that might not be present elsewhere.


Americans aged 55 and over have higher well-being across all five elements than do their younger adult counterparts, including better eating habits, significantly reduced money worries and greater pride in their community compared with those between the ages of 18 and 54.

This elevated state of well-being upon reaching older age manifests itself in many other ways:

"People in the United States are now living significantly longer than prior generations, a trend that stands to continue," said Joe Coughlin, founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab. "As a nation, we must improve upon advances in well-being while developing new strategies to help Americans age well and thrive in later life."

Prior research has demonstrated that high well-being among individuals is closely linked to lower healthcare costs and increased productivity. As the average retirement age continues to climb, boosting well-being for older Americans who remain in the workforce should be a critical goal for U.S. employers.

"Our research paints a powerful picture of how we age as a population, and the important link between the physical and social aspects of well-being, especially for older Americans," said Dr. Sheri Pruitt, Ph.D., vice president and chief behavioral scientist at Healthways. "When older adults thrive, they are more active, assert good physical and mental health, and achieve higher life satisfaction."

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

For the complete state well-being rankings for older Americans, read the full report.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 2, 2015, to March 31, 2016, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, with a random sample of 115,572 adults, aged 55 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for most states is about ±1.5 points, although this increases to about ±2.1 points for the smallest-population states such as North Dakota, Wyoming, Hawaii and Delaware.

All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

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

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