Health study shows West Virginia ranks 50th in well-being

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginians have the lowest well-being in the nation, according to a 2016 health study from Gallup and Healthways.

The state ranked 50th for an eighth year in a row. Gallup and Healthways have been tracking well-being in the United States since 2008.

The study looked at five elements:

  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

West Virginia had the lowest well-being in three of those five elements including physical, financial and purpose.

Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for West Virginia University Health Sciences, said people need to have supportive relationships and live in “communities of hope” in order to live a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s not about opening another clinic or taking another blood pressure or measuring another blood test, it’s about creating love, safety and positive relationships — helping people find purpose again and not feel isolated,” Marsh said on last week’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

According to the study, Hawaii reached the top spot for a sixth time in the last nine years. Alaska ranked second for a third consecutive year, while Colorado finished in the top 10 for a ninth straight year.

Hawaii leads the nation in financial, community and physical elements. Alaska leads in social well-being and Texas leads in purpose well-being.

Nearly 177,000 adults from all 50 states were surveyed from January to December 2016.

Marsh said he knows West Virginia has had health problems for years, but he’s confident WVU Health Sciences will be able to create the right incentives to connect well-being to health care in the state.

“We really do believe we can be the beacons for other people to follow if we do this right,” Marsh said.

WVU President Gordon Gee, along with Marsh, have been recruiting physicians for WVU Health Sciences. Marsh said West Virginia is an “easy sell” when it comes to health care because there “is an energy around the commitment to a great purpose.” He said he usually reminds doctors why they wanted to get into health care in the first place.

“Most of us started in healthcare to help people live great lives as opposed to worrying about billing numbers, customer satisfactions, rankings and lists. That’s not motivating to the individual, so that’s the reason why I think we’re able to recruit great people,” he said.

According to the study, Kentucky residents had the second-lowest well-being. Ohio, Arkansas and Mississippi have been in the bottom 10 all nine years of tracking.

In 2016, the nationwide well-being index score was 62.1. That is an improvement from the 61.7 score in 2015 and the 61.6 score in 2014.

West Virginia’s score in 2016 was 58.9. Following that was Kentucky and Oklahoma’s score of 60.5. Hawaii had high score of 65.2 and Alaska came in second with a 64.0 score.

To view the study, click here.

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