Healthy Behavior: Vermont Best; Kentucky Worst

by Elizabeth Mendes

Western and Northeastern states fill out the top 10

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The far-flung residents of snowy Vermont and the sun-soaked island of Hawaii in the first half of 2009 scored the highest in the nation for practicing healthful behaviors -- including eating healthily, exercising, and not smoking. Americans living in the Southern states of Kentucky and Arkansas are the least likely to report practicing these healthy habits.

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The midyear results from the AHIP State and Congressional District Resource for Wellbeing, a product of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, find the nation as a whole dropping substantively on the Healthy Behavior Sub-Index, from 63.7 in 2008 to 62.6 in the first half of 2009. The Healthy Behavior Sub-Index is one of six sub-indexes that make up the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and asks Americans four questions: do you smoke; did you eat healthy all day yesterday; in the last seven days, on how many days did you exercise for 30 minutes or more; and in the last seven days, on how many days did you have five or more servings of fruits and vegetables. The Healthy Behavior Sub-Index scores for the nation and for each state are calculated based on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 would be a perfect score.

Healthy Behavior scores in most states are trending down in the first half of 2009 compared with 2008, though many have not decreased by a statistically significant degree. Mississippi, whose score ranks among the bottom 10, is the only state to record a statistically significant increase in its healthy behavior score thus far in 2009. (See page 2 for a complete list of state Healthy Behavior Sub-Index scores.)

Clear patterns emerge when the results are mapped, with Western, Mountain, and Northeastern states -- as well as Florida -- performing the best, and states in the South and Midwest performing the worst.

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Residents of Vermont, in addition to obtaining the highest score on the overall sub-index, are also the most likely to report frequent exercise and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Ohio residents are the least likely to report frequent exercise. Arkansas does the worst on the healthful diet dimension and North Dakota ranks last for weekly consumption of fruits and vegetables, specifically.

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Americans living in Utah are the least likely of residents in all states to say they smoke, while residents of Kentucky and West Virginia are the most likely.

Complete 2008 rankings are available at the AHIP State and Congressional District Resource for Wellbeing, a one-of-a-kind interactive database that enables users to research and sort Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index data alongside the most up-to-date statistics from the Census Bureau.

Gallup.com's "State of the States" series reveals state-by-state differences on political, economic, and wellbeing measures Gallup tracks each day, based on data collected between January and June 2009. To see all stories published in the midyear 2009 series, click here. New stories will be released throughout the month of August.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 178,545 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 2-June 30, 2009, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±0.2 percentage points.

The margin of sampling error for most states is ±1-2 percentage points, but is as high as ±4 points for smaller states such as Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, and Hawaii.

References to "statistically significant" change relative to 2008 scores are always based on 95% (p<.05) confidence levels.

The AHIP State and Congressional District Resource for Wellbeing categorizes the District of Columbia as a congressional district.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is the first and largest survey of its kind, with 1,000 calls a day, seven days a week. It is the official statistic for Wellbeing in America, giving a daily measure of people's wellbeing at the close of every day based on the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of health as not only the absence of infirmity and disease but also a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing. The Well-Being Index will be a daily measure determining the correlation between the places where people work and the communities in which they live, and how that and other factors impact their wellbeing. Additionally, The Well-Being Index will increase the understanding of how those factors impact the financial health of corporations and communities. For additional information, go to www.well-beingindex.com.

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