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The good life: Minnesota, Twin Cities rank high in national 'well-being' list

If you live in Minnesota, chances are your life is pretty good.
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If you live in Minnesota, chances are your life is pretty good.

That's according to the Gallup-Healthways State Well-Being Rankings for 2015, which were released on Wednesday and puts Minnesota in the 7th place in the country for "well-being."

What does this mean, you ask? Well, Gallup polls citizens and ranks each state based on five categories:

  • Purpose: Liking what you do and being motivated.
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life.
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress, increase security.
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.
  • Physical: Having good health and good energy.

Minnesota improved its position from 2014, when it ranked 11th, and scores well across all categories.

But its highest score is in "financial," for which it's 4th in the country, probably owing to a median salary significantly higher than the national average (though not everyone benefits from this, given Minnesota's racial disparities when it comes to income).

Neighbor South Dakota is one place above Minnesota in the list, which is topped by Hawaii, with Wisconsin and Iowa 13th and 14th respectively.

Minnesota is one of the states to have consistently ranked highly in the tables since Gallup started publishing them in 2012.

Twin Cities high on "active lifestyles" list

Alongside the well-being ranking, Gallup released a list of metropolitan areas ranked based on how healthy and active its residents are, and the infrastructure in place to help them be healthy.

The Twin Cities is the 6th best metro area for active lifestyles, getting the highest "Park Score" in the country, which recognizes effective park systems based on acreage, facilities, investment and ease of access.

It also scored highly for its bike system, given its extensive bike path network across the metro that is continuing to grow, but scored less well on transit, especially when compared to cities like Boston, Chicago and New York.

The Twin Cities also has a high "well-being score" based on the same categories applied to states, ranking 5th in the country out of major metropolitan areas.

Praise for Albert Lea

Gallup singled out a few cities across the country for praise in their efforts to boost active lifestyles, and among them was Albert Lea in southern Minnesota.

It refers to the city's recent efforts that has seen the installation of 10 miles of bike lanes and new sidewalks, as well as city-adopted policies to reduce tobacco use and promoting health and social interactions in the workplace.

Local businesses got involved too, with restaurants adding more outdoor dining areas.

"These active living improvements helped Albert Lea increase overall well-being by 2.8 points from 2014 to 2016, easily outpacing the state and nation," Gallup said, noting that smoking dropped to below the national average, more residents were eating fresh produce and community pride has increased.

City manager Chad Adams puts some of the improvement down to it being selected as a location for a Blue Zones pilot project in 2009, which takes inspiration from the parts of the world with the longest life-expectancy to boost health and longevity in specific cities.

You can read more about how it has helped improve health in Albert Lea here.

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