Why are people in Provo, Utah, smiling so big? After all, they’re in the middle of nowhere, far, far from the bright lights of the bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles that everyone knows are supposed to be the most entertaining places on the planet.
It turns out that these Utahans might be flashing those ear-to-ear grins because a) they’re decidedly not anywhere close to these big cities, and b) they’ve heard they live in what’s objectively being called the happiest place in the country.
This honor came directly from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which surveys people around the world about positive and negative qualities where they live, work and play.
According to Healthways, which puts together the annual “State of American Well-Being,” more than 178,000 people were interviewed about their physical and emotional health, general environment, social factors, access to health care, shelter, food, and other measurements.
Though true happiness is not easy to quantify, the Healthways site said its goal is to scientifically come up with reasons why one community’s well-being is higher or lower. Each larger population area in the U.S. and 40 other countries receive a ranking.
From the 2013 list, the Provo-Orem community came out on top of the 189 U.S. metropolitan communities. The Today Show said the findings indicated that Provo was a “quietly awesome place to live.”
What’s Special about Provo
City officials give credit to many factors, including the region’s natural beauty, opportunities, and generally nice residents. After all, its official motto is “Welcome Home” which extends to everyone from businesses to tourists to people already living there.
The “Quality of Life” section of the official Provo web site gives special attention to the Covey Center for the Arts, which offers regular entertainment, including touring national performances and fun local shows, and a unified public transit system that includes an airport, light rail, and bicycle trails.
The Provo site also credited the local economy with providing jobs and lower unemployment than the national average, plus a lower cost of living.
Another plus of the Provo area is that it’s one of three communities with Google Fiber, considered to be 100 times faster than traditional broadband. Google has initially offered the fiber optic service to Provo, Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Mo.
The impressive ranking on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index joins a large collection of other awards and recognitions that Provo has received over the years.
Livavbility website included it as No. 17 in its list of 100 best places to live in the U.S. in 2014, and praised its scenery, recreation opportunities, growing arts scene, shopping, dining and access to health care. Moreover, Forbes ranked it as No. 2 in terms as the best place for business and careers, just slightly below Des Moines, Iowa.
Other Happy Communities
Business Insider discussed the latest happiness/well-being index figures in late March, and took note that Lincoln, Neb., dropped from last year’s No. 1 spot all the way to 10. Being ranked 10th among so many obviously welcoming communities is a definite asset but also a big dip.
Following Provo-Orem on the newest list included Colorado cities Boulder and Fort Collins/Loveland, then Honolulu and San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, Calif.
At the other end of the scale, the same communities stayed at or close to the bottom. In 2013, readers were told that Charleston, W. Va., had the lowest ranking, but this year Business Insider said it was second to last, and the bottom spot was now claimed by Huntington-Ashland W.Va., Ken., and Ohio.