The Happiest City in the U.S. Is…

According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey for 2014 in which 500 Americans participated each day, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida is at the top of the list of the happiest communities in the U.S. or rather the community with the highest Well-Being Index score. The survey was conducted from January 2 to December 29, 2014.

The updated survey used since January 2, 2021 includes around 2 million individual surveys of different people about what well-being is to them, with statistical modeling. So, the updated index now has 5 aspects of well-being, and each can be given a mark 0-10. These elements are purpose, social, financial, community and physical:

  • Purpose has to do with how much you like your days and how motivated you are to achieve your goal – how strong is your sense of purpose.
  • Social aspect is about having relationships filled with love and support, and if the relationships are like that, the score for social element is high, while if you don’t have love and support, the score is low.
  • As for the financial element, it has to do with managing economic life which means less stress and better sense of security.
  • The community element is for liking where you live and feeling safe and good about your community.
  • Finally, the physical aspect is for being healthy and having enough energy for regular daily activities.

Based on all of these elements, Sarasota has the highest Well-Being Index score (64.1) among one hundred most densely populated communities in America. This Well-Being Index is determined based on a 0-100 scale, 0 being the lowest possible score for well-being, and 100 being the highest.

What puts Sarasota at the top of the list is a combination of very high scores in all 5 elements, or at least most of them. The research showed that the communities with the highest well-being scores score high in several well-being elements, rather than in just one or two. The residents of Sarasota are more physically active than, for example, most of the people from the lower-scoring communities. As physical activity leads to health, those people grade their physical well-being with high marks. This aspect is linked with social well-being because people who are physically well often have someone who loves and supports them. This also makes them less likely to become physically ill, or obese, which leads to living a healthier life and feeling safer in their community.

People living in such communities with high scores on the Well-Being Index usually have good money managing skills, so their financial well-being also scores high. With all these positive aspects of their lives, it is no wonder that their sense of purpose and motivation are stable and high. In Sarasota, the people usually score high in all five elements of well-being, because they complement each other.

When all five elements reach high scores on the Well-Being Index in a community, its residents can be said to be generally happy and their lives to be good. Sarasota may be the happiest city, but there is a list of nine more cities that score very high on that scale as well, so they can also be said to be the happiest cities in the U.S. Since Sarasota is the first, we’ll start from number 2, and besides each city (or community) we’ll put its Well-Being Index score.

2. Honolulu, Hawaii – 63.8

3. Raleigh, North Carolina – 63.6

4. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California – 63.6

5. El Paso, Texas – 63.6

6. Austin-Round Rock, Texas – 63.4

7. Provo-Orem, Utah – 63.3

8. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California – 63.2

9. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, District of Columbia-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia – 63.1

10. Winston-Salem, North Carolina – 62.9

This survey gives us state-level results which show that well-being scores are, according to Gallup, higher in the Northern Plains, Mountain West and West, while they are lower in the South and Industrial Midwest. While in the areas with high scores on the Well-Being Index people score high in most elements, in those not-so-happy cities people usually don’t have so much support and love in their lives, they are in a worse financial situation, or they manage their financials less effectively, they feel less safe in their environment and are usually less motivated.

One negative aspect draws more of these elements to score lower, which leads to a less happy environment, just as many positive aspects lead to a more positive community.