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Hawaii, Alaska lead country in well-being index

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    Kent Terada shows the shaka or “hang loose” sign while sitting at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu.


    A woman cross-country skis in Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska » If you want to improve your sense of well-being, leave the Lower 48.

A new report ranking all 50 states based on residents’ sense of well-being puts Hawaii at No. 1, followed by Alaska, which held the top spot last year.

Hawaii has been No. 1 in the poll five times since 2008.

“Alaska and Hawaii are both beautiful states in their own way but distinctly different,” said Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Montana, Colorado and Wyoming rounded out the rest of the top five in the State of American Well-Being: 2015 State Rankings report, compiled from a non-scientific telephone survey of residents across the country.

The survey listed the bottom five as Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia, which has been last in the rankings for the past seven years. Kentucky has been No. 49 during the same time.

The ratings are compiled from questions to residents related to five areas, which a variety of questions:

— Purpose (with an example question, do you like what you do each day?)

— Social (do you have loving relationships?)

— Community (do you like where you live?)

— Financial (are you managing your economic life to reduce stress?)

— Physical (how’s your health and energy?)

Hawaii hits the mark for Danny Quan, a taxi company owner and driver who said he likes the water and surfs a lot. He said he has no complaints about life in Hawaii.

“Even if you wake up kind of sad or unhappy, you can just come down to the beach. Or just enjoy the mountains, go hiking or something,” Quan said while gazing at the ocean from Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu.

Across the Pacific Ocean, in Anchorage’s expansive and wooded Kincaid Park, Chad Garner was preparing to go geocaching, a game in which players hide items for others to find using GPS coordinates and clues.

He was born in Iowa, graduated from the University of Montana and moved to Alaska eight years ago.

“I didn’t come here for a job or anything like that,” he said. “I just wanted to be here.”

He loves the outdoor recreational opportunities that Alaska offers — fishing, country-country skiing, running, fat-tire biking.

While the survey gives Hawaii and Alaska high marks, it’s not all sunshine. Hawaii residents said they worry about money and housing.

Alaskans had their problems, too. They didn’t respond well when asked if they felt good about their appearance. And there was a gap between the number who have health insurance and those who don’t have a personal doctor to keep them on a health plan.

The study didn’t touch on Alaska’s high rate of suicide, but Witters noted that about 12.3 percent of Alaska adults reported they have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their life, second lowest in the survey. Of those surveyed, 6.4 percent said they were being treated for depression, also second lowest in the nation, just behind Hawaii.

Kent Terada, a respiratory therapist who works three, 12-hour shifts a week, visits the beach in Honolulu every Monday and Tuesday to surf for a few hours, go for a run and grab a bite to eat. Then he finds a shady tree and strums his ukulele.

“It’s a pretty good life I must say,” Terada said. “Am I supposed to be having this much fun? I’m not sure.”

Alexis Will, 32, of Fairbanks said exercise is another important factor for Alaskans.

“It seems like people here aren’t as timid about going out no matter what the weather, and I think that really brings a good sense of self and place to people,” she said while walking her dog Kronos, a 2-year-old pure bred German Shepherd, in a downtown Anchorage park while in town for a conference. “You get to see the subtle changes throughout the year, and find the beauty even if it’s raining sideways or negative 40.”

Asked if she can imagine living in any other state, she laughed. “I can, and it’s never very nice.”

McAvoy reported from Honolulu.

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    • True. Hawaii has many good people and some decent weather. I do think the high cost of living is stressful, the lack of eligible males with high career aspirations is distressing and the lack of opportunity is disturbing. I prefer the wide open spaces of North Dakota and being rooted in Mandan tribal ways. We share and take care of each other.

  • Going to the beach and snow skiing, posing a higher incident of getting skin cancer. Is that in this article. But, like they say, the big print giveith. And the small print takes it away.

    • yup kind of sad if all one thinks about is money. It’s always the same no new Kakaako development, no rail, etc. There’s so much other important things to worry about then money.

      • leoscott, well being is a frame of mind, a matter of perspective. In prehistoric times, man’s primary concern was safe temporary housing. That taken care of, hunting prey and gathering food took the better part of EVERY day. Man might’ve traded what food he had for temporary housing. His entire day revolved upon survival. Failure to hunt, gather or find housing meant death or being exposed to life’s dangers. There was no state of well-being; tomorrow was uncertain. Survive or die. Now fast forward to 2016. People today earn money EVERY day/40 hours weekly, instead of hunting prey or gathering food. Failure to secure enough work jeopardizes survival. If tomorrow is uncertain, how can anyone provide for himself AND his family when he no longer works? No matter how old you are, a state of well-being is improbable unless you or someone else are caring for all your needs. It doesn’t matter if you live in Hawaii Kai or Mississippi, well-being is a state of mind.

  • It’s just a matter of someone’s opinion as to what they like about the state and not by the survey and it depends on the age group that are being asked the questions. Ask people from every state about the good and bad and if they’re happy with their life, it would be a good place to be. There might be good things about Hawaii and Alaska but than again, many people’s negative issues will outweigh the positive that other people continue to enjoy while living in that particular state. Nah, it’s what everyone’s comfortable with at the state they’re living in that makes it the best place to live and not specifically by the questions posed from an individual.

  • Please define “well being”? An abstract state that defies a coherent definition. One man’s state differs from another depending on many conditions from ideology, ethnicity, economic, intellectual and list goes on. Thus this study seem to be worthless other than to let residents of that state to feel good although their plight may be sad.

  • What all of you Eeyore types are missing is that Hawaii is a good place to live. We chose it 36 years ago and have never regretted leaving Berkeley and LA. (This is a polite invitation to stfu}

  • SA always does this—-report a “negative” to us one day, then follow up within the next couple days with a “positive”. The other day Hawaii was one of the worst places to retire and today Hawaii is one of the best places to own a sense of well-being. The truth?? Hawaii is one of the worst states to live in PERIOD. Government, politicians, judiciary system, cost of living, quality of life, housing, traffic, education, immigrants, taxes, choo-choo to nowhere, pot holes – don’t know about you, but I have NO sense of well-being whatsoever!! Like someone once told me, “people in Hawaii take the easy way out and just “settle”–i.e. just accept things the way they are. How very true her observation was.

    • dyw001, maybe not. Today on, they listed 50 cities with major traffic issues. Places like Philadelphia with 1.5 million commuters, with over 20% having 60+ minutes in traffic. Honolulu was not mentioned. BTW, the extra freeway curb lanes west of Aiea to Waipahu helps greatly.

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