Provo, Utah; Raleigh, N.C.; and San Jose, Calif.; are miles apart geographically and culturally, but they share at least one thing: a high sense of well-being among their residents, according to an index that ranks metro areas on factors that contribute to peoples’ productivity and health costs.

The 2014 Community Well-Being Rankings are the latest from the polling company Gallup and the consulting firm Healthways, both of which started surveying across the U.S. and abroad in 2008. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index surveyed residents to get a sense of their social, physical and financial health, as well as their sense of purpose and connections to their community -- all factors that contribute greatly to worker productivity, societal health costs and the economic competitiveness of a place, Gallup and Healthways argued.

“Those things are kind of hard to scientifically measure, but they’re very real and very significant, and those are the things leaders can influence, most certainly,” said Dan Witters, Gallup’s research director on the index, in a phone interview.

The 2014 rankings are based on 55-question surveys of about 175,000 people across all 50 states. Gallup wouldn't go into heavy detail about the kinds of questions asked, but they covered a person’s sense of purpose (enjoying their livelihood, feeling motivated), social health (supportive relationships that energize), financial health (level of financial stress), community ties (attachment to a place, sense of pride) and physical health (often specific characteristics like body-mass index). 

Each community, defined as a metropolitan statistical area under the U.S. Census Bureau, received a rank in each category according to the strength of the responses from their residents and an overall rank as well. 

Taking the top spot was Florida’s North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton area, which performed especially well in financial and physical health. Honolulu, Raleigh, California’s Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura area and El Paso, Texas, rounded out the rest of the top five. El Paso was the only community to take the top ranking in two categories: sense of purpose and physical health. 

The South, Southwest and West Coast dominated the top 30, where only one Northeast city, Boston, appeared.

Honolulu and Utah’s Provo-Orem have consistently scored among the top communities, but so have the San Jose area (8th this year), Washington, D.C. and its Virginia suburbs (9th this year), San Francisco (12th this year) and Minnesota’s Twin Cities (17th). 

Ohio fared poorly, with five of its major cities in the bottom 10 percent. Also finishing near last were Indianapolis, Ind. (96th); Knoxville, Tenn. (98th); Scranton, Pa. (94th); and Detroit (92nd).  

This year’s survey featured a couple notable changes. First, it was limited to the 100 largest metro areas, whereas previous years featured upwards of 200 areas. Secondly, the latest index includes questions on social health and community attachment that were “pretty much entirely absent from the old model,” Witters said. “We’ve done enough research since 2007, and we knew it had to be in there, that it’d improve the efficacy of our model.”

Some cities are likely to chafe at a low ranking or dismiss the survey as overly subjective, but Witters pointed out that the survey did include objective physical health measures as well as subjective measures that “statistically earn their place at the table by demonstrating how they link with outcomes:” health-care utilization, absenteeism, per-capita violent crime, so forth. 

“These questions are all there because they link to outcomes both at the individual level and population level, demonstrably so and repeatedly so,” Witters said.

Well-Being Index Data 

Gallup and Healthways ranked 100 metro areas on five components related to well being. Listed figures refer to a metro area's ranking.

Composite Rank Area Purpose Social Financial Community Physical
1 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton 11 4 2 12 2
2 Urban Honolulu 14 70 1 6 26
3 Raleigh 9 6 13 3 24
4 Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura 6 3 11 8 29
5 El Paso 1 57 63 23 1
6 Austin-Round Rock 12 37 37 4 21
7 Provo-Orem 18 9 28 1 47
8 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara 51 44 3 32 4
9 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria 27 12 5 35 9
10 Winston-Salem 34 8 58 14 14
11 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 16 46 40 44 3
12 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 48 31 10 33 8
13 Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 4 36 22 30 33
14 Chattanooga 8 1 64 2 59
15 Spokane-Spokane Valley 32 38 4 51 23
16 San Diego-Carlsbad 41 53 25 18 15
17 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington 53 58 7 16 22
18 Omaha-Council Bluffs 38 47 6 10 72
19 Cape Coral-Fort Myers 19 14 33 28 17
20 San Antonio-New Braunfels 13 60 56 11 54
21 Richmond 31 7 38 27 40
22 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 10 49 34 24 50
23 Charleston-North Charleston 35 5 75 19 32
24 Springfield 69 16 15 68 10
25 Denver-Aurora-Lakewood 39 72 26 22 25
26 Grand Rapids-Wyoming 52 35 8 17 61
27 Boston-Cambridge-Newton 66 34 20 26 16
28 Colorado Springs 30 54 87 25 27
29 Tucson 24 10 41 54 18
30 Stockton-Lodi 17 20 21 93 13
31 Albuquerque 22 69 71 59 7
32 Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia 20 43 65 36 35
33 Boise City 62 65 68 9 41
34 Lancaster 71 93 9 13 43
35 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 26 23 92 48 11
36 Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk 63 88 43 58 5
37 Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford 61 30 18 62 20
38 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale 33 40 48 50 37
39 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis 36 29 30 60 30
40 Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade 56 27 45 56 34
41 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford 25 39 84 49 38
42 Salt Lake City 60 64 74 29 36
43 Wichita 29 41 16 46 74
44 Nashville-Murfreesboro-Franklin 49 84 61 31 53
45 Bakersfield 3 2 99 96 31
46 Fresno 5 89 85 90 12
47 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville 70 75 66 37 28
48 New Haven-Milford 47 48 50 91 6
49 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 37 42 77 67 42
50 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin 59 55 95 5 70
51 Des Moines-West Des Moines 90 74 23 7 88
52 Augusta-Richmond County 46 11 90 39 65
53 Jacksonville 45 45 52 70 45
54 Baton Rouge 2 19 83 53 87
55 New York-Newark-Jersey City 75 61 60 72 19
56 Tulsa 7 22 59 21 95
57 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario 23 52 78 75 46
58 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway 15 28 55 47 83
59 Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton 78 32 42 45 55
60 Harrisburg-Carlisle 54 76 24 43 75
61 Greensboro-High Point 57 62 91 42 73
62 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue 84 66 36 55 58
63 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro 91 73 57 41 51
64 Chicago-Naperville-Elgin 50 77 39 79 44
65 Madison 93 95 17 15 84
66 Syracuse 44 13 27 78 67
67 Ogden-Clearfield 92 83 97 20 56
68 Albany-Schenectady-Troy 55 17 14 74 68
69 Pittsburgh 81 68 12 61 71
70 Providence-Warwick 86 92 47 65 52
71 Jackson 21 63 88 95 63
72 Rochester 88 71 32 64 76
73 Oklahoma City 64 51 35 34 92
74 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington 72 21 44 82 57
75 Columbia 43 33 100 92 39
76 New Orleans-Metairie 40 80 94 52 79
77 Kansas City 68 56 49 57 85
78 Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise 79 87 69 84 49
79 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News 76 50 54 85 62
80 Lakeland-Winter Haven 42 15 93 71 82
81 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater 67 59 79 63 69
82 Baltimore-Columbia-Towson 83 25 31 94 64
83 Memphis 28 24 98 89 78
84 Cleveland-Elyria 85 94 29 86 60
85 Akron 82 82 62 88 48
86 Louisville-Jefferson County 74 97 89 40 89
87 Worcester 99 18 72 80 66
88 St. Louis 65 67 46 73 90
89 Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls 97 78 19 87 80
90 Birmingham-Hoover 58 90 81 66 96
91 Cincinnati 73 85 53 77 86
92 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn 87 86 70 97 81
93 Columbus 94 96 80 69 91
94 Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton 89 91 51 98 77
95 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach 80 26 82 83 94
96 Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson 77 98 67 76 99
97 Dayton 95 79 73 81 98
98 Knoxville 98 99 96 38 100
99 Toledo 96 81 86 100 97
100 Youngstown-Warren-Boardman 100 100 76 99 93

Source: Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index