Top US Cities for Well-Being Revealed

employee happiness
(Image credit: Happy Workers Image via Shutterstock)

Out of nearly 200 U.S. metro areas, Provo-Orem, Utah, is the country's top community for well-being, according to the results of a Gallup-Healthways survey conducted in 2012 and 2013.

Other top cities for well-being include Boulder, Colo.; Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo.; Honolulu; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

The lowest-ranking metro areas for well-being were Huntington-Ashland (a metro area that spans parts of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio); and Charleston, W.Va. [Where Does Your State Rank for Well-Being? (List)]

Out of a possible 100 points, Provo-Orem scored 71.4 on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, while Huntington-Ashland scored just 59.5 (the only metro area to score below 60).

A city's well-being ranking is based on six measures of residents' lives: emotional health, physical health, healthy behaviors, access to basic necessities, job environment (such as job satisfaction), and a self-evaluation of present and future life.

The metro areas in the survey were based on the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. In many cases, an MSA includes more than one city.

The well-being scores for metro areas tend to line up with the well-being scores for states, which are generally higher in the Midwest and West, and lower in the South, Gallup said in a statement. West Virginia includes at least part of two low-ranking metro areas, and the state also ranked last in the country for well-being in 2013.

On the other hand, California ranked 17th for well-being in 2013 and, in the current survey, has three metro areas in the top 10, Gallup said.

When looking at just the nation's 52 largest metro areas (with a population of 1 million or more), San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. ranked first in overall well-being, followed by San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif., and Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria, which spans parts of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia.

The metro area with the best scores for physical health and access to basic necessities was Holland-Grand Haven, Mich., while San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif., ranked highest in work environment.

City leadership, such as government and community-based leadership, play a critical role in how well a city sustains a culture of well-being, according to Gallup.

"There are tangible policies that communities can adopt to actively cultivate and improve residents' well-being," Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones LLC, a project by Healthways that aims to make communities healthier, said in a statement. These include policies that nugget people into healthy activities, such as those that would make it easier to walk to the store and get access to fresh produce, Buettner said.

The survey results are based on telephone interviews with more than 531,000 U.S. adults conducted between Jan. 2, 2012 and Dec. 30, 2013.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.