Foon Rhee

The Numbers Crunch: Why aren’t we happier in Sacramento?

Sarasota, Fla., has the highest well-being score in the country, according to a new survey. Spring training baseball certainly can’t hurt.
Sarasota, Fla., has the highest well-being score in the country, according to a new survey. Spring training baseball certainly can’t hurt. The Associated Press

You may not be able to measure happiness, but a new national survey is an interesting approach to get somewhere close.

Out this week, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tries to gauge if people have healthy and rewarding lifestyles. It found that people in the Sarasota, Fla.; Honolulu, Raleigh, N.C.; Thousand Oaks-Ventura, and El Paso, Texas, metro areas had the highest overall scores.

San Jose also made the top 10; Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland and San Diego are in the top 20.

As for Sacramento, it came in at No. 40, better than Fresno but below Stockton.

I’m a little surprised Sacramento doesn’t do better. Sunny skies, a relatively low cost-of-living, a growing food and arts scene – what’s not to be happy about?

In general, well-being is higher in the West and lower in the South and industrial Midwest. The lowest scores were Youngstown and Toledo in Ohio and Knoxville, Tenn.

The index uses interviews conducted last year with 176,700 randomly selected people across America. They were asked about five elements to measure well-being:

▪ Purpose: Enjoying what you do and being motivated to reach your goals.

▪ Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life.

▪ Financial: Managing your money to lower stress and increase economic security.

▪ Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and being proud of your community.

▪ Physical: Maintaining good health.

Each metro area was then ranked based on their scores on each element.

For instance, Sacramento did relatively well on the social and physical elements, which makes sense since it’s a family-oriented city where people are generally nice and where pleasant weather encourages getting exercise outdoors.

Sacramento residents were in the middle on the financial score, but below par on having a purpose and community pride.

On lack of purpose, could it be that we have an abundance of government workers and many are feeling unappreciated by the public? Go to most state buildings, and it’s hard to see office drones deriving any “psychic income.”

As for community pride, could it be that stubborn inferiority complex where some of us would rather live in San Francisco, if we could afford it?

It does make you wonder.

The authors of the index say that cities with the highest well-being tend to have certain qualities that build upon each other. For instance, residents in those cities exercise more – raising the physical score – but also have people encouraging them to be healthy – increasing the social score. The authors say that local leaders should support well-rounded policies that make it easier for people to make healthy choices.

It’s all somewhat subjective, and for my taste, a little touchy-feely.

But it does broaden a picture of a community’s well-being beyond “hard” numbers such as crime reports, poverty rates and household incomes.

After all, you can’t buy happiness.


Where California metro areas rank in overall well-being:

4. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura

8. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara

11. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim

12. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward

16. San Diego-Carlsbad

30. Stockton-Lodi

40. Sacramento-Roseville

45. Bakersfield

46. Fresno

57. Riverside-San Bernardino

Source: Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index