The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is just what it sounds like — a collaborative poll, now in its sixth year, that seeks to track and rank "the state of well-being across the United States," state by state. The resulting breakdown is being slugged often as a list of the "most miserable" states, though there is cause for celebration if you live in the Mid-, North- or Western states, such as Colorado, the Dakotas and California, which make up the majority of the upper quintiles.
The 2013 index included more than 178,000 interviews (Gallop said it conducted 500 phone interviews a day) for a sample representing "95 percent of all U.S. households" to assess "perceptions on...physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and healthcare."
According to the 2013 report, the six categories determining each composite ranking include life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access.
Georgia ranked 27, doing best in life evaluation and emotional health. That's a small but significant jump from its 2012 ranking at 33.
Alabama ranked 47, doing "best" in basic access. That's a slide of two spots from its previous ranking at 45. The state is in familiar regional company with Tennessee (44), Louisiana (41), Kentucky (49), Mississippi (48) and Arkansas (45). According to USA Today, "Relatively few Alabama residents said they had enough money to afford medicine, food or adequate shelter. Alabama residents also had among the worst physical health in the nation."
West Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi make up the bottom of the list (at 50, 49 and 48, respectively). North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska take the first, second and third slots.
Some caveats: Alabama's sample size for the 2013 index was 3,070 people out of a state of more than four million (Georgia's was 5,128 out of a nearly 10 million populace); and the methodology relied heavily on phone interviews, which necessarily assume that people are as candid and transparent as possible at all times.