Worcester region sinks to lowest rank in ‘well-being’

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/03/29/worcester-region-sinks-to-lowest-rank-in-well-being/

BOSTON – The Hub of New England trails both the Manchester-Nashua area of New Hampshire and even Springfield in western Massachusetts in terms of a “well-being” index created by Gallup, a polling and research organization, and Healthways, a firm that helps governments, insurers and hospitals improve the wellbeing of their constituents.

But greater Boston outranks both Hartford, Connecticut, and Providence, Rhode Island, on the list of 190 communities studied last year, the organizations said, while the greater Worcester area fell into the bottom 10. Among small towns, Barnstable on Cape Cod came out on top nationwide.

Pollsters interviewed almost 354,000 U.S. adults across all 50 states from January 2014 through December 2015 and based the rankings on five elements: feeling of purpose, social support, financial security, enjoyable community and physical health. The index released last month reflects how communities stack up in terms of residents’ happiness and health.

“Our research captures how people feel about and experience their daily lives and provides a broad perspective on the aspects of life that matter most to people,” the organizations said in a statement accompanying the survey results.

The top-rated metropolitan areas in this year’s poll tend to have a more lively cultural scene and residents with higher incomes. About half are beach towns. In addition to Barnstable, which has some of the priciest real estate on the Cape, top-ranked communities in the study include Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida – which wasn’t in the previous top 10 – Salinas, California, North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Florida, and Fort Collins, Colorado.

Massachusetts metro areas included in the study span the range of best to worst. The state as a whole was listed with a 61.8 score on an index range of 58.5 to 64.8, placing it near the middle of the pack, at 30 out of 50. But if fell 13 places from the previous ranking. Rhode Island, on the other hand, shot up 11 places to 26. Among New England states, Connecticut ranked highest at 18. Hawaii topped the last and West Virginia placed last.

The metropolitan region that encompasses Worcester County, in central Massachusetts, and Windham County, in northeast Connecticut, sank in well-being rank to 183 out of the 190 areas listed, tied with the Dayton and Toledo metro areas in Ohio. All three regions ranked below Flint, Michigan, and the Utica-Rome area of upstate New York, while Charleston, West Virginia, was listed as last.

Barnstable, which includes Hyannis, Osterville, Wianno and Cotuit, outscored the overall state average, and ranked fifth among all areas in the nation as well as first among small communities. The median home value in Osterville, which fronts on Nantucket Sound, is about $510,000 according to Zillow.com, a realty website. That compares with about $338,000 for all of Barnstable and about $343,000 for the state.

While the central Cape town shined, the Worcester area ranked lowest in the nation for “sense of purpose.” The Springfield area topped Boston, ranking 51st, and was the top-scoring Bay State community after Barnstable. But the Stamford-Bridgeport, Connecticut area scored highest among New England’s more urban regions, at 29th. The Manchester-Nashua region landed at 49th and Portland, Maine, was at 33rd, while the Boston metro area ranked 63rd and the Providence region came in at 154th.

In an analysis of the rankings, authors encouraged city leaders to examine specific root factors that could increase happiness, such as job creation, and providing incentives to lead healthier lives. For example, anti-obesity campaigns and opportunities for fitness and recreation could increase physical health and decrease medical visits and related costs.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.