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Donna Barker

Staying happy in Illinois

I’m entertained, but also somewhat offended, by the 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index released a couple weeks ago which showed my home state of Illinois did not make the Top 10 list for the happiest states in the country.

The data was apparently based upon information received through daily interviews in 2012 with 500 adults from across the country. The survey was based, in part, upon the state’s weather and climate, emotional and physical health of its residents and job satisfaction.

According to the index, if Illinois residents are looking for the happiest states in which to live, they might consider relocating to Hawaii, Colorado, Minnesota, Utah or Vermont, which make up the top five happiest states in the union. Or, we could consider a move to Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Iowa or Massachusetts, which round out the “top ten” happiest states in the county.

But I’m personally glad that at least Illinois did not come in as one of the Top 10, rather Bottom 10, of the “most miserable” states in the union. (In a way, that’s a bit surprising to me taking into consideration some of our past governors and our ongoing financial crisis.)

Going down the scale of happiness, it appears Illinois residents should try to stay away from moving to the Bottom 10 states, which include Oklahoma, Nevada, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, and at the bottom of the bottom, West Virginia.

In the past, I personally have had close family members who have lived in West Virginia, Tennessee and Indiana. I have lived in Ohio. I have met a lot of happy people in those states.

In all fairness to the 10 most miserable states, the range of ranking was less than 10 points from the top to the bottom. So even the lowest of the low states showed that two-thirds of their residents have a sense of well-being in their states. I think that’s pretty impressive.

As far as for us Illinois residents, it appears Illinois has come in at the 28th happiest state in the country, which is a nice increase from the 2011 ranking as the 32nd happiest. However, our happiest year, in the past five, was apparently 2010 when we had our best showing of 26.

Though I have questioned the validity of the survey, I do understand the value of the collected data which is apparently used by public and private sectors to develop and prioritize strategies to help their communities thrive and grow. This is a good thing. Also, journalists, academics and medical experts are said to benefit from the data for use in their research and reporting. This is another good thing.

But I personally think that the happiness-level of a state isn’t measured by surveys.

But still, maybe if we all smile a bit more, get a little bit healthier, and watch our money more carefully, as individuals and as a government, then maybe next year will be our year for Illinois to reach that Top 10.

Shaw Media Staff Writer Donna Barker can be reached at dbarker@bcrnews.com.

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