We don't seem to be very happy in Kentucky.
At least that is the finding of the 2010 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
We earned a score of 61.9, second from the bottom, saved only by West Virginia's 61.7.
The happiest state was Hawaii, despite its high cost of living and the reportedly wide financial gap between the haves and the have-nots.
The Well-Being Index reached those results after phoning some 1,000 folks nationwide every day throughout last year.
The 12-minute survey, conducted by calling both cell phones and land lines, measures such things as our emotional health, job satisfaction, physical health and behaviors, and access to basic health care. More than 350,000 were interviewed from January to December last year. The margin of sampling error for most states is plus or minus 1 to 2 percentage points, Gallup says.
The Well-Being Index score for the nation was 66.8.
Hawaii topped the list by scoring 84.1 for emotional health and 80.4 for physical health out of a possible 100. Its overall score was 71.
Kentucky, on the other hand, had the second-worst rate of obesity for the first six months of 2010. And when it comes to healthy habits, we ranked at the bottom.
Those scores are enough to send us all into a serious funk.
"When you don't feel well, everything looks bleaker," said Kelly Gunning of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lexington. "We're dealing with this economy where all you hear is bad news. Then we eat for comfort, which makes things worse. We spend less on education, on well-being, on prevention, early diagnosis and treatment."
That's why, she said, Kentucky is often at the bottom of good lists and at the top of bad ones.
Wouldn't that make us rather difficult to market to businesses that could bring jobs and a brighter future?
Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, said a lot of our rankings nationwide are tied to our health and wellness. That's why, he said, the state chamber made health issues, such as a statewide smoking ban, one of its top three priorities.
Although health issues seem incongruent with business recruitment, Adkisson said, chamber members recognize that to be a factor in how they do business.
But despite that or at least until we improve our health habits, Adkisson said, the chamber "markets our strengths.
"We have huge assets, and we promote those to recruit new companies, new families, new students," he said.
While he respects the Gallup organization, he said, there are numerous surveys that can't capture the true essence of a community.
Still, Kentucky has to work on improving education and other aspects of our economy that could lure the jobs we need. He said the chamber is working to do just that.
I'm glad to hear that. We can't continue to ignore our problems. Sometime, somewhere, somehow we're going have to do something to change our rankings.
This is not just about one survey. We land at the bottom of most surveys. We have for many years.
We used to say, "Thank God for Mississippi." Now Mississippi, ranked 48th on the Healthways index, is thanking God for Kentucky and West Virginia.
This is about us. The survey asked Kentuckians how we felt about ourselves, our lives. We have to be the ones who change from being cellar-dwellers to mountain climbers.
It's time we saw the view at the top.