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Friday, February 03, 2017 10:07 pm

State near bottom of well-being index

Ron Shawgo | The Journal Gazette

Hoosiers continue to feel less chipper than most of the nation.

Indiana again ranks near the bottom in the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a state-by-state survey of ourselves and surroundings. 

The results, using measures of purpose, social interaction, financial security, community pride and health, are for 2016. While Indiana’s overall score remained unchanged from the year before, changes among other states pushed Indiana from 46th to 47th place.

In fact, Indiana, Oklahoma and Kentucky had identical overall scores, besting West Virginia, which ranked last. Indiana consistently has been in the bottom 10. Its highest ranking was 38th in 2011.

As for the individual measures, Indiana scores for purpose and social interaction declined significantly. The survey defines purpose as liking what you do each day; social as having supportive relationships.

"Without a purpose and a social network to support change, Indiana will continue to struggle with our physical health," Chuck Gillespie, executive director of the nonprofit Wellness Council of Indiana, said in an email response. The group is part of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Indiana’s physical health ranking climbed two positions but still placed 44th.

As an example, Gillespie points to Mississippi, which ranks 41st overall but third in purpose.

"That is a critical, shorter-term opportunity to help move our state to realizing total well-being," he said.

The Well-Being Index, based on 177,192 telephone interviews, is calculated on a scale of zero to 100, where zero represents the lowest possible well-being and 100 the highest. Scores for each of the five measures use the same scale. No state scored 100 or zero. Rather, the range was 58.9 to 65.2. The national score was 62.1

Indiana, Oklahoma and Kentucky all scored 60.5, though identical scores might be due to rounding, the report says.

Dr. Deborah McMahan, Allen County health commissioner, called Indiana’s ranking disappointing.

"But I have found in my practice of medicine that these indicators do travel together," she said in an email. "Folks who feel a lack of purpose often feel a lack of connection to others and do not feel particularly good physically either. To do what it takes to enjoy good health and financial well-being is hard work, that becomes a bit easier when we feel like we have a purpose and therefore live a bit more intentionally. Nonetheless, these results reveal we have more work to do to ensure people have access to the resources they need to realize their purpose and potential and feel part of our community."

Hawaii, Alaska and South Dakota, described in the report as "three states with track records of high well-being," topped the list in that order. Hawaii, with an overall score of 65.2, led the nation in financial, community and physical well-being. Alaska and Texas led the nation in social and purpose, respectively.

West Virginia and Kentucky have recorded the lowest well-being in the nation for the past eight years in a row, the report states. In 2016, West Virginia placed last for purpose, financial and physical well-being, while Rhode Island had the lowest social and community well-being rankings.

The survey found nationwide improvements: historically low smoking rates, high exercise rates and the highest scores recorded on health insurance coverage and visiting the dentist. Americans are also reporting the lowest rates of health care insecurity since 2008, as measured by not being able to afford health care once in the last 12 months, the survey states.

On the flip side, chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and depression are now at their highest points since 2008. The percentage of Americans who report eating healthy all day during the previous day is also at a nine-year low, according to the report.

Gillespie said Indiana struggles to understand how all five measures are critical to success.

"Gallup also suggests that over 90 percent of wellness programs are physical only," he said. "Without purpose and a social network to support change, these programs will continue to struggle with making change." 

rshawgo@jg.net