Cold, Dark, and Happy

By James Hamblin
James Hamblin
James Hamblin
February 25, 2015 Updated: February 25, 2015

“Alaskans are the best in the nation in terms of exercise,” explained Dan Witters, a research director at the polling agency Gallup, in making the case that Alaska is the nation’s new bastion of well-being. “Which just goes to show you that you don’t need year-round good weather to demonstrate good exercise habits.”

Even if I remain unconvinced on that front, the fact that people manage to exercise more in Alaska than people in any other state—somehow—is just one of the many metrics that landed the state the number-one spot in a massive study of health and well-being across America, released this week.

Alaskans also reported the lowest stress levels of any population in the country over the past year, and the state had the lowest rate of diabetes. Maybe most surprisingly, despite the cold and darkness, Alaskans also had the second lowest rate of depression diagnoses in the country.

The state has actually been in the top 10 multiple times since the first annual well-being rankings in 2008—Hawaii and Colorado are the only states to have made the top 10 every year—though Alaska has never before been number one. 

Alaska is also number one in the nation, with 72 percent of residents feeling daily intellectual stimulation.

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*Image of “Alaska” via Shutterstock