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Evansville bristles over ‘most miserable’ label

– Residents in Indiana’s third-largest city are taking issue with new a Gallup poll that ranks Evansville as one of the nation’s “most miserable cities.”

The recently released Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index ranks the Evansville metropolitan area 182nd out of 189 U.S. metro areas based on a range of health and wellness factors.

Research firm Gallup and health care company Healthways have collected and published Well-Being Index data since 2008. Respondents are asked more than 50 questions about six areas, including physical and emotional health, health-related habits and access to things such as health care and clean water.

In addition, they are asked 17 demographic questions, such as “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?” and “Do you smoke?”

While Evansville’s new label provoked immediate reactions, the rankings are complex, and the “most miserable” phrase came not from Gallup or Healthways, but from third-party descriptions of the index’s findings.

“We at Gallup, and our partners at Healthways, tend to bristle when we see headlines like ‘Happiest place’ or ‘Most miserable city,’ ” said Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index.

He said that 546 people in the Evansville area were randomly selected for the survey. The Evansville metro area includes the Indiana counties of Vanderburgh, Warrick, Posey and Gibson, as well as Henderson and Webster counties in Kentucky.

Among the locals who view the rankings with skepticism is Elizabeth Tharp, of the Welborn Baptist Foundation, an Evansville group that makes grants aimed at improving health and well-being in the area.