Contentment

Apparently in the winter of my discontent, the rest of you here in South Dakota are feeling pretty darn good about things. Someone (me, for example) might even call you smug.

I base this on a Gallup study that says South Dakotans report so much satisfaction with their lives and jobs that the state ranks almost top of the chart in well-being in 2013. Only North Dakota ranks higher.

Even more amazing, last year neither state was in the top 10. Either life in the Upper Great Plains radically improved in the previous 12 months, or the survey-takers only interviewed Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Mayor Mike Huether.

"The Gallup-Healways Well-Being Index, based on interviews with more than 176,000 people from all 50 states last year, measures the physical and emotional health of Americans across the country," according to an article in USAToday.

In states with high well-being scores, residents were less likely to smoke (hooray, indoor smoking ban) and more likely to exercise regularly and learn new things every day (I need an example of that). “These states also enjoyed the positive outcomes of such behaviors, including lower obesity rates and other common health problems,” the article said. (That confirms my suspicion that I’m the only overweight person in Sioux Falls.)

The article points out that positive well-being scores don’t necessarily have high incomes (poor but happy?), but that’s outweighed by other advantages such as being smart AND employed.

And it’s apparently just one great big pocket on contentment because in addition to our jolly neighbors to the north, we’re joined by Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa in the top 10. Perhaps the long winter months freeze our brains, and they don’t thaw out in time before winter strikes again.

Nationally, the well-being index dipped from 66.7 in 2012 to 66.2 in 2013. Here in South Dakota, our score is 70. North Dakota’s is 70.4, and they’re having an oil boom, remember. Would an oil well in my backyard make me happy? Probably not. But I wouldn’t mind a gold mine.

Here’s what the study says about South Dakota. You read that while I go off and enjoy my work environment:

2. South Dakota

• Well-being index score: 70.

• Life expectancy: 79.5 years (tied-18th highest)

• Percentage obese: 28.3% (17th highest)

• Median household income: $48,362 (22nd lowest)

• Percentage with high school diploma: 90.5% (tied-13th highest)

Respondents from South Dakota were among the most likely people in the USA to report good emotional health. More than 86% of those surveyed reported smiling or laughing within the past 24 hours, second-highest in the USA. Meanwhile, 90% reported enjoying a large portion of their day, and more than 93% felt happy during the previous 24 hours, both more than any other state. The state’s 3.6% unemployment rate in December tied for the second lowest in the USA. Not only did much of the workforce have a job, but also people in the state were more likely to enjoy their work environment than residents of any other state except for neighboring North Dakota.