First, apologies right off the bat for these maps having the ugliest color scheme in the history of the world. (The color spectrum is right there in nature, people - you just have to use it.) The maps come from a poll done by Gallup for AHIP (America's Health Insurance Plans, which could perhaps explain the colors (insurance analysts not being known, generally, for their refined sense of design)).
The maps show well-being by state and congressional district based on interviews with 350,000 people during 2008. Says Gallup:
The Well-Being Index score for the nation and for each state is an average of six sub-indexes, which individually examine life evaluation, healthy behaviors, work environment, physical health, emotional health, and access to basic necessities. The questions in each sub-index are asked nightly of 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older.So the ratings of well-being are inferred rather than derived from self-reporting. That's good.
The Western states tend to rate the highest, along with a couple eastern states with more post-industrial economies. The being is most well in Utah, followed by Hawaii, Wyoming, Colorado, and Minnesota. The unhappiest states tend to be the poorer ones, and the ones with more manufacturing-based economies; no surprises there. The least well state in the union is West Virginia, with Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, and Arkansas rounding out the bottom five.
As for the wellest congressional district? Honors go to California's 14th, which runs along the Pacific coast between San Francisco and San Jose and contains part of Silicon Valley. And the least well district is Kentucky's 5th, in the eastern part of the state, deep in the heart of darkest Appalachia.