When it comes to the well-being of older Americans, the best states to support an aging population beyond physical health cover a broad range from Hawaii to Connecticut, and even Alaska to New Mexico, according to inaugural rankings from Gallup-Healthways.
The report, released this week in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, finds that Hawaii is the state where older Americans have the highest well-being, while West Virginia ranked as the state with the lowest well-being for adults age 55 and older.
The rankings are based on data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, described as a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being throughout the world. Gallup, known for its public opinion polls, is a research-based, global performance-management consulting company. Healthways employs experts in research, analytics and medical science to work with clients across a range of health-related fields.
Specifically, the report is based on self-reported data gleaned from 114,388 interviews with individuals age 55 and older, focusing on five elements of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. These five elements, according to Gallup and Healthways, create a composite picture of the well-being of older Americans in each state.
Taking that criteria into consideration, the top 10 states with the highest well-being for older Americans are Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota, Alaska, Iowa, New Hampshire, Utah, Oregon, New Mexico and Connecticut.
The Aloha State ranked highest in both the Community and Physical categories, while Purpose (2) and Financial (7) also placed within the top 10. The state earned its lowest rank (20) in the Social category.
Nationally, the research revealed that adults age 55 and older have higher well-being than the rest of the population across all five elements, and that well-being improves with age. For example, people 75 and older have even higher well-being than those ages 65 to 74.
Older adults were also found to enjoy high rates of financial well-being, where 52% are thriving, compared to 32% of Americans younger than 55.
This trajectory of well-being is noteworthy as researchers see a decline in well-being when people reach their late forties and early fifties, but then a “significant increase” across all five elements after that, said Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
“From previous research, we know that higher well-being correlates with lower healthcare costs and increased productivity,” Witters said in a written statement. “Maintaining high well-being for older Americans will be especially important to employers as our country’s workforce ages and more individuals delay retirement.”
As for the states with the lowest well-being, the bottom 10 was anchored by West Virginia, which was preceded by Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, Indiana, Nevada, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.
See where your state ranked.
Written by Jason Oliva