Where You Live Can Affect Your Well-Being

Want to live long and live well? Take a look around you. Where you live can play a huge role in your quality of life.

And it’s not just certain states that have a significant influence over your state of mind and body. At a more granular level, the city and even the neighborhood where you live can make a difference, too.

Hawaii tops the list of states providing people with the best well-being, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island region of Florida was at the top of the list of communities with a high index score; for large metro areas, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California received the highest score.

The other states in the top five of the index – Alaska, Montana, Colorado and Wyoming – illustrate that there’s more to well-being than just balmy weather and sunny skies. The Gallup-Healthways Index cites five elements that contribute: environments that give individuals purpose, supporting social structures, financial security, community cohesiveness, and physical health and energy.

Those factors become more obvious when you drill down. Gaps in life expectancy, driven by such influencers over peoples’ well-being like poverty, access to healthcare and infrastructure, can be as great as 15 years.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health has mapped life expectancy according to such measures in 10 cities, and those gaps held whatever the size or the population density of the jurisdiction. A 16-year gap in life expectancy was seen in Chicago’s neighborhoods as well as in Las Vegas. More telling: Baltimore’s tracking showed life expectancies ranging from the mid-80s on its north side to 66 years in its poorest neighborhoods, according to Governing magazine.

Cities that have reduced that gap have created an environment that fosters well-being, as it takes more than genetics to determine a long life. Denver conducted a study of its Globeville and Swansea neighborhoods in 2014 to determine the community’s future. The report cited environmental quality, connectivity and access to services as some of the issues that needed to be addressed, and made recommendations to mitigate those problems.

The benefits of living someplace where the well-being index is high translate into more than just adding years to your life. The Gallup-Healthways Index suggests those states at the top of its list have a lower uninsured rate, fewer smokers and more people who exercise.

If you’re thinking of relocating to increase your well-being, that may or may not pay off. A study published in Psychological Science suggests that when there’s a match between your personality and that of the city where you live, higher self-esteem can result. That’s based on the alignment of three key traits: openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness.

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