Florida City Is 'Happiest Community' in US for 2nd Year

A silhouette of a woman walking on the beach.
(Image credit: kudla/Shutterstock)

The title of the nation's happiest community once again goes to the city of Naples, Florida, and its surrounding area, according to a new poll.

Residents of the Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island metro area, which is on the southwestern coast of Florida, reported the highest scores on a Gallup-Healthways' survey of well-being, conducted in 2015 and 2016. The survey included people in 189 metro areas, and the scores were averaged over a two-year period.

In this most recent poll, residents of the Naples metro area scored a 66.3 out of 100 on the survey's measure of well-being. The Naples area previously claimed the top spot in this same poll conducted in 2014 to 2015.

Runners-up in the 2015-2016 poll include Barnstable Town, Massachusetts; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California; and Honolulu. [See the Full List: US Communities Ranked by Well-Being]

Finishing last in the poll was the metro area of Fort Smith, which is on the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The rankings are based on interviews with more than 354,000 U.S. adults in all 50 states, conducted from January 2015 through December 2016. The researchers calculated a well-being score for each community, based on the participants' answers to questions about different aspects of their well-being, including their sense of purpose, social relationships, financial lives, community involvement and physical health.

In general, metro areas with the lowest well-being scores tended to be in the South and Midwest, while those with the highest scores tended to be along the East Coast and in Western states.

A map showing the top 10 and bottom 10 U.S. communities ranked according to well-being, based on results from a Gallup-Healthways survey conducted in 2015-2016. (Image credit: Gallup-Healthways)

In some cases, areas that are relatively close geographically showed a large gap in their well-being scores. For example, the metro area of Charlottesville, Virginia, had one of the highest well-being scores in the country (ranking fifth overall), while the metro area of Huntington-Ashland, in West Virginia, had one of the lowest scores, ranking third to last (187th overall). The two communities are separated by only 300 miles, Gallup said. [7 Things That Will Make You Happy]

These differences can provide opportunities for communities with low well-being scores to view examples of "best practices" in communities with higher well-being scores that are geographically and culturally close, Gallup said.

Some public policy initiatives may help improve specific aspects of people's well-being, Gallup-Healthways said. For example, community leaders could work with grocery stores and restaurants to make it easier for customers to select healthy food options, which is a goal of the Gallup-Healthways' Blue Zones Project. This project is being carried out in Naples area, Gallup noted, as well as several other cities across the country.

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.