According to data collected throughout 2011 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Lancaster County, PA is the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) where well-being is highest, compared to all other U.S. metro areas.
My Facebook newsfeed has been overtaken by a photo of a USA Today sidebar listing the top and bottom 10 in this ranking. Big thanks to Michael McCrea for seeing the story and sharing a photo.
Gallup and Healthways interviewed 1,000 people a day over the course of last year to collect this data. Every person they interviewed is given a composite score of well-being, which is based on factors in six categories:
- Life evaluation
- Emotional health
- Physical health
- Healthy behavior
- Work environment
- Basic access
Together, these six categories contain 55 individual factors. A breakdown is available on the project’s methodology page.
In the case of Lancaster County, they interviewed 781 individuals, or 0.15% of our population. They then used the composite scores of those individuals to create a composite score for Lancaster County. (Read the overview report in PDF format.)
Metropolitan Statistical Areas are often not apples-to-apples comparisons. Lancaster County is a rarity among the country’s 361 MSAs in that the Lancaster MSA and Lancaster County are the same thing. York County for instance, is bundled with Adams County. The Philadelphia MSA includes both Camden, NJ and Wilmington, DE.
As an alternate way of breaking down the data, the 2011 Well-Being Index report also ranks the results by U.S. congressional district. By that measure, Lancaster ranks 7th. (Chester County must be dragging us down!)
What I find most impressive is that Lancaster managed to reach the #1 slot while being surrounded by bad influences. The 2009 version of this same study revealed that the York-Hanover MSA was the 4th most obese in the nation, and that area shares a large border with the Lancaster MSA. (The obesity statistics for 2011 have not yet been released.)
In fact, while Lancaster ranks at the very top of the list for the overall Well-Being Index, York-Hanover is down at 120th. Allentown-Bethlehem is 169th. Harrisburg-Carlisle and Reading look better, at 49th and 56th, respectively. (That info is found in the Pennsylvania-specific report, also a PDF.)
It is worth noting that compared to the year prior, Lancaster’s Well-Being numbers improved in each of the 6 categories listed above, except one:
That’s right: healthy behavior. The bad news is it appears our behavior isn’t as healthy as it should be. The good news is that our behavior is the thing we have the greatest ability to change.
I’m sure our local business champions will be proud of the fact that our best-performing category is work environment.
For those interested, here are the top ten MSAs on the 2011 Well-Being Index:
- Lancaster, PA
- Charlottesville, VA
- Ann Arbor, MI
- Provo-Orem, UT
- Boulder, CO
- Honolulu, HI
- Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
- Fort Collins-Loveland, CO
- Appleton, WI
What are your thoughts and reactions?