Gallup released its national “wellbeing” data this week, upsetting West Virginians and cheering Hawaiians (as if they needed it). Overall, Hawaiians are the happiest with their lives, with the top emotional health and work environment scores, while West Virginians have the lowest scores for life evaluation, and emotional and physical health.
Meanwhile, Maryland was barely edged out of the top 10 overall (we’re coming for you, Massachusetts!); Marylanders were the second most-likely to rate their lives as “thriving” (just after those self-satisfied Hawaiians). We’re actually in the top 50% on every single quality measured, except for “work environment” (which “measures workplace issues such as whether a worker has a trusting and open work environment and whether an employee is able to use his or her strengths to do what he or she does best every day”), where we come in 26th. And between 2011 and 2012, we improved on every metric except for our physical health — and, come on, no one’s perfect.
Things get more interesting, though, when you zoom in and look at the state with a little more geographic specificity. Basically, the Washington suburbs are the ones bringing our scores up — their measurements are consistently in the top quintile. The Baltimore/Towson area gets middling scores for everything except “life evaluation,” where we’re near the top (maybe they did the polling right after the Super Bowl?). And the farther west you travel — the closer you get to West Virginia, that is — measures of physical and emotional health, healthy behavior, work environments, and access to services all drop precipitously.
In other words, Maryland is a study in contrasts. The state’s fourth congressional district (which comprises parts of Prince George’s and Montgomery County) is the 13th district in the whole country in terms of well-being. It’s also the second-most emotionally healthy place in the entire country. Meanwhile, the second congressional district (parts of Baltimore City, plus Harford, Baltimore, and Anne Arundel Counties) comes in 349th out of 436 in terms of well-being. So, Maryland: how does this make you feel?