The Alaska economy might have started a slide into recession in 2016, but the residents of 49th state managed to maintain a joyful outlook on life, according to a newly released poll from Gallup-Healthways.
The poll had snow-bound Alaskans rating their sense of well-being second only to that of sun-bathing Hawaiians.
“Hawaii’s Well-Being Index score of 65.2 is the highest score of any state in the last three years, and Hawaii led the nation in financial, community and physical well-being. Alaska and Texas led the nation in social and purpose well-being, respectively,” a summary of the poll results said.
Social well-being was described as “having supportive relationships and love in your life.”
Alaskans ranked first in that category and a seemingly surprising second in the category of financial well-being. If they were starting to worry about the state’s economy in 2016, they apparently weren’t letting on to pollsters.
The financial ranking tracks “managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security,” the report says; reducing stress and increasing security are tough things to do in a recession.
Alaskans scored fifth in having a motivating sense of purpose, sixth in maintaining good community relationships and 15th – their worst score – in physical well-being. The latter tracks “good health and enough energy to get things done daily,” according to the poll.
The poll was based on 177,192 telephone interviews with U.S. adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia from January 2 to December 30, 2016, according to Gallup. The timing of the Alaska polling was not reported, though it could affect those physical well-being scores.
By the winter solstice in Alaska, Fairbanks, the state’s second-largest city, is getting less than four hours of daylight, and Anchorage is lucky to get five and a half. No one in Alaska has much energy that time of year.
Of the states that voted for President Donald Trump in the fall’s presidential election, Alaska was rated the highest for happiness. Eight of the 10 unhappiest states – including the key states of Indian and Ohio – went for Trump. Only 5 of the 10 happiest states voted for the new president.
California, the bastion of support that pushed Democrat challenger Hillary Clinton to the lead in the national popular vote, just missed making the top-10. It came in 13th with its score dragged down with a bad ranking for “liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.”
California was 35th in that “community” category. The situation was similar for New York, the other state that swung overwhelmingly to Clinton. New York was ranked 33rd overall but with a community rank of 43rd.
The poll has to make one wonder if stiffer gun control laws really make people feel any safer or better about where they live. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives California an “A” for its gun control efforts and New York an “A-.” Alaska gets an “F.”
Alaska’s community score was sixth behind Hawaii, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming in that order. Hawaii earned an “A-” on gun control, but all the rest of those states got the same “F” as Alaska.
The report also points out some apparent oddities. It found a general increase in people who reported exercising since the 2008 poll and a general decrease in the number of people who reported smoking.
But despite those two healthy trends, obesity rose from 25.5 percent to 28.4 percent; depression from 17.1 to 17.8; and diabetes from 10.6 to 11.6.
The study did offer one tip on how to improve your sense of well-being: Get married.
“Married people have the lowest rates of depression, 13.4 percent, and sadness, 13.5 percent, and the highest rates of enjoyment, 87.9 percent, and happiness, 91.3 percent, compared to people from any other marital status,” the report said. “Adults with children living at home are more stretched emotionally, reporting more worry and stress on any given day, but also more happiness, smiling, and laughter.”