This January photo shows an aerial view of Santa Cruz, Calif., which has the sixth-highest well-being score among 190 U.S. communities surveyed. (Matt Merrifield/The Nature Conservancy via AP)

The Americans most satisfied by life have a lot in common.

In places where people report a strong sense of well-being, residents tend to like what they do. They find their surroundings intellectually stimulating and safe. And they have low rates of obesity and high rates of healthy eating and exercise.

But they share at least one unintuitive characteristic: Good dental hygiene.

“In high well-being places, people go to the dentist; that’s a very common feature,” said Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which ranks 190 metropolitan areas by the well-being of their residents based on a survey of more than a quarter-million Americans.

A visit to the dentist will, of course, not fix all of your problems, but places where people have good dental health also tend to be places where they report being generally fulfilled.

“It’s a surrogate for it,” Witters said. “People who take good care of their teeth generally think they have higher well-being lives.”

The people who reported the highest well-being ratings live in and around Naples, Fla., according to the Well-Being Index, which was released Tuesday. The rankings are based on how strongly residents rate their sense of purpose, social fulfillment, financial security, sense of community and physical health — five elements that Gallup felt “matter most to a life well-lived,” Witters said.

As it turns out, life is actually pretty grand along a stretch of Southwest Florida.

The Sarasota metropolitan area — a two-hour drive north of Naples — placed third in the ranking.

Coastal California ranked highly, too, claiming three of the top 10 spots (Salinas, Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo).

But well-being isn’t limited to oceanfront communities: Fort Collins and Boulder, in Colorado, both landed spots in the top 10, as did Anchorage, Alaska.

In fact, as The Post reported last month on similar state-level findings, well-being in Alaska was second only to Hawaii’s.


Overall, Florida, California, Colorado and Texas were home to many of the communities with the highest well-being scores, accounting for 14 of the top 20 such places.

The bottom 20 were more disperse, though five were in Ohio.

At those extremes, though, change is uncommon.

“Occasionally, there’s going to be exceptions that will jump in there, but by and large the real high well-being places and the real low well-being places tend to be pretty much the same one year to the next,” Witters said.

Charleston, W.Va., ranked dead last, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

That state claimed another spot in the bottom 10, as well, while neighboring Ohio claimed three.

The survey was based on more than 246,000 live telephone interviews conducted in 2014 and 2015. Each survey lasted about 10 to 12 minutes, throughout which individuals were asked dozens of questions, Witters said.

Their responses were then scored and grouped into five categories: physical health, sense of community, sense of purpose, financial security and social well-being.

Scoring high on the community measure meant an individual felt safe and was proud of and liked where they lived. A strong sense of purpose meant they enjoyed what they did on a daily basis and felt motivated to achieve their goals. A high social well-being rating was associated with having supportive relationships and love in life.

In the end, a single score was determined for each metropolitan area, based on those five categories.

And Naples, as the local newspaper put it, was crowned “a national champion in well-being.”


(Naples Daily News)

Related stories:

The richest places in America all have one thing in common

Look at the jaw-dropping emptiness of America

Every county in America, ranked by scenery and climate