The State of Well Being

Gallup is a world renown polling company that “provides data-driven news based on U.S. and world polls” and public opinion research since 1935.  In 2008, Gallup and Healthways (a well-being improvement company), partnered to establish the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index to provide in-depth, and a “nearly real-time view” of Americans’ well-being.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index “includes more than 2.3 million surveys, capturing how people feel about and experience their daily lives.”  These surveys essentially measure “Americans’ perceptions of their lives and their daily experiences through five interrelated elements that make up well-being: sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, relationship to community, and physical health.”

Well Being Index

Since 2008, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey “has been conducted every day, excluding major holidays and other events, for 350 days per year.” Thus…this poll is not just some vanity magazine’s results after running a day long internet poll.  This is real data.  And Montana appears to be a great place to live… but we knew that.

In the 2013 “City Indicators” from Gallup show that Billings is a great place to live ranking 15th of 189 metropolitan areas in the United States in overall well being.  In that same poll, Billings ranked 4th in highest percentage of people consuming produce for a varied diet.  Other indicators look good for Montana as well.  Montana ranks third amongst all states in percentage of residents who “exercise frequently.”

Why is this important?  According to the Gallup site, “Having an awareness of U.S. residents’ well-being provides unmatched insights into people at the community, state, and national levels.”

But it’s also important for a few other reason. One is, well, bragging.  But what is also important about such poll results is looking at those factors in which Montana is not top ranked, and what, perhaps, we can do to improve.

State Quintile.jpg
As with all averages, the good is added to the bad to get the overall picture.  And the bad is, well, bad.  In 2013, nearly 1 in 4 Billings residents were obese. Though this figure was under the national average at 26.7%, it is still disconcerting.  Billings is the unique problem though in Montana, as statewide, we ranked 3rd of all states in lowest rate of obesity in 2014.  In 2013, we ranked #3 – the lowest rate of percentage of obesity in all 50 states.

The Specifics
The Purpose Rank for Montana was 21 of 50 States, putting us close to the middle of the pack.  This ranking included questions about personal motivation and liking what we do everyday in our professional and personal lives.

Well Being Montana.jpg

Questions in this part of the survey include how people feel about their personal goals, how they feel about their work environment, and whether their skills are being fully utilized on a daily basis.   Montanans thus aren’t exactly the happiest when it comes to feeling a sense of purpose in their lives with the ranking in the middle of the pack.

The Social Rank for Montana was the lowest of the five measurements, revealing a rank of 37 of 50.  This metric asked survey respondents questions regarding how they felt about the relationships in their life – friends, family, and work.  Question included how strong respondents relationships are, levels of happiness, issues related to depression and general stress, and enthusiasm for life. This ranking puts us in the bottom 25% in the nation for positive feelings about our social lives.

A much better score was the Financial Rank which measured how we feel we are managing our financial lives.  The better we do in this category, in theory, the less stress we have about our security.  Questions were obvious in this category asking whether the survey taker was able to pay bills or had enough money for basics.  Montana ranked 9th in this metric – a pretty good general indicator that Montanan’s are less stressed than may of our counterparts in other states.

The Community Rank was where Montana shines! – Number 1 out of all fifty states.  This indicator deals with liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community. Montanans are apparently, and understandably, proud of the communities in which they live!

The final category is the Physical Rank.  This was another great showing for Montanan’s as we ranked 4th among the 50 states.  This area is all about good health through physical fitness, activity, and good eating habits.  It also covers question regarding diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health related issue.  Montanan’s in this self-reporting category are general more active and healthier than 92% of the states in the country.  Cool!

The Billings metro area has something to boast about as well.  In Gallup’s 2013 Community Well Being Rankings, Billings ranked 15th out of 189 communities polled. Driving our success is that we are produce eaters!  Who knew?

2013 City Ranking.jpg

We also ranked high in the “exercise frequently” category in that more than half of us are regularly active in fitness activities.  We ranked fairly well on the smoking index too in that only 1 in 5 of us are smoking compared to the worst metro area in the nation:  Charleston, West Virginia where 1 in 3 are smokers. Though our community ranks in the lower third for obesity, that still reveals 1 in 4 Billings residents are obese. The thinnest metro area in the nation? Boulder, Colorado at a bit over just 1 in 10.  The worst category for Billings – daily stress.  A little under 2 of every 3 of us are stressed – I can relate.  Despite the high rate, it seems most Americans are stressed as the average for all 189 metro areas surveyed is nearly 60%.  Still, overall, Billings, Montana is a great place to live and we have the numbers to prove it.


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