What a difference just a few years make.
It was in 2014 that a Yahoo! story labeled Columbus and nine other communities near the bottom of a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index as among the most “miserable” in America. It hammered Columbus for its low percentage of college graduates, residents’ nicotine habits, a lack of financial resources, and even mental outlook. It went as far as to say nearly one in four people did not like the city in which they live.
“Columbus area residents were among the most depressed in the country,” the website’s story stated. “Roughly 24 percent said they had been told by a physician or nurse that they suffered from depression, one of the highest percentages in the country.”
Other cities on the dubious 2012-2013 list, generated from telephone surveys and data, from the bottom up, were Chattanooga, Tenn.-Ga., Evansville, Ind.-Ky., Mobile, Ala., Shreveport-Bossier City, La., Beaumont-Port Arthur, Tex., Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, N.C., Spartanburg, S.C., Redding, Calif., Charleston, W.Va., and Huntington-Ashland, a metro area where the West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio borders meet.
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The outlook for Columbus, apparently, is not so dire in the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released this week for 2015-2016. In fact, the city is No. 68 out of 189 communities surveyed, making it the highest-ranked city on the list in Georgia. The only other Peach State cities in the overall community well-being rankings are Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell at No. 83, Augusta at No. 87 and Savannah at No. 162.
Alabama cities surveyed for their state of well-being were Daphne-Fairhope-Foley at No. 34, Birmingham-Hoover at No. 76, Huntsville at No. 100, Mobile at No. 102 and Montgomery at No. 180. And, of course, the Columbus metro area also includes Russell County and Phenix City in Alabama.
Specifically, Columbus rated near the top in the latest survey in the areas of sense of purpose and social activity, but was deep in the middle of the pack of communities in terms of physical health. In fact, the city in 2015 was rated among the worst for its incidences of diabetes. Residents as a whole also fared worse in the area of financial resources and were not far from the bottom in terms of overall community well-being.
“Where you live can impact your health and well-being. Innovative leaders are transforming their communities to create improvements in how people socialize, work, eat, play and move,” Michael Acker, general manager of the Blue Zones Project at Healthways, said in the report. “These changes are empowering citizens to make healthier choices, be more productive and have better quality of life. Employers, health systems and community leaders are poised to create positive change by promoting meaningful and measurable actions towards better well-being. And, by doing so, they invest in a brighter future for all.”
That said, the U.S. cities with the highest levels of well-being, according to Gallup-Healthways, are Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Fla., Barnstable Town, Mass., Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif., Urban Honolulu, Hawaii, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla., San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif., Lynchburg, Va., Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, S.C., and Boulder, Colo.
The unfortunate ones at the bottom — in the latest survey at least — are Montgomery, Ala., Erie, Pa., Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas, Chico, Calif., Flint, Mich., Canton-Massillon, Ohio, Topeka, Kan., Huntington-Ashland, West Va.-Ky.-Ohio, Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, N.C., and Fort Smith, Ark.-Okla.
You’ll notice that three of those communities on the so-called “miserable” list in 2012-2013 are still flailing away in 2015-2016. Their languishing near the bottom and Columbus lifting itself up should be motivation for everyone.