SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Don't Worry, Be Happy, Sort of


March 12, 2009

Ketchikan, Alaska - Okay, so there is still slushy white stuff on the ground and it is mid March.

And , yes, from the tenor of the letters on SITNEWS, the world is going to heck in a hand basket. In fact, if I took those letters seriously, I wouldn't even write this column because obviously life as we know it is going to be over before I even get to the bottom of this page.

jpg Don't Worry, Be Happy, Sort of By Dave Kiffer

Dave Kiffer

As usual, I digress.

But, hey, it could be worse.

You could live in West Virginia. Which , according to a recent Gallup Poll, is the unhappiest state in America.

Gallup surveyed some 450,000 Americans and asked them 40 questions to determine just how happy and healthy they were. West Virginia was at the bottom, followed by Kentucky and Mississippi.

You don't have to stereotypologist like me to say "well, duh" to that.

Kentucky and West Virginia have more smokers than residents and Mississippi, well, when was the last time you heard any remotely "happy" news about Mississippi???

In general, states in the South and Midwest were neither happy nor healthy, according to Gallup.

States in the East were generally middling on both counts and the healthiest, happiest places in the country were out West.

Utah, Hawaii and Wyoming were the top three states.

Oops, my son Liam, has an interjection to make.

"But Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, Daddy!!!"

Yes, it is. (Never argue with an eight year old!)

Back on task.

Utah is, not surprisingly, super healthy because, drum roll please, it's against the law to do or consume anything unhealthy there!

On the other hand, in the sub category of "emotional health" Utah falls all the way to 10th place. I can imagine that if there was a category for "funnest" state, it would drop even further.

I was surprised to see Wyoming so high (third) on the list because my two years in the Equality State (all cowboys are equal in God's eyes, son) uncovered numerous behaviors that most folks would consider starkly unhealthy (many involved semi-controlled substances, fast motor vehicles and high powered weapons).

But apparently, all in all, folks are happy to be there and are more healthy than a lot of folks in other states. Go figure.

Hawaii was second. And that remains a big "no duh." Hard to be unhappy when the air temperature is a constant 80 degrees and the ocean is like a big bathtub, no matter how bad the economy is.

And apparently a diet of Spam three meals a day is not as unhealthy as one would suspect.

By now, of course, you are wondering where does Alaska stack up? Obviously not as good as Utah and not as bad West Virginia, but you - oh sharp eyed reader - already knew that.

Overall, Alaska came out 20th, behind just about everywhere west of the Rockies other than Nevada, which is about as emotionally stable as a supermodel.

There were several subcategories that made up the overall results and - not surprisingly - Alaska's results were all over the map.

Under "life evaluation," we scored a 9th place while under basic access (to necessary care and support) we were fourth from the bottom at 47th. No surprise there.

Quality of our work lives was at 21st, and we were 26th in the country in "healthy behavior."

Given the presence here of many of some of the factors that I mentioned about Wyoming, I was surprised that that ranking wasn't lower. Maybe, Alaska isn't really the wild frontier that it calls itself anymore. Apparently there are more "risk takers" in Iowa, Kansas and Delaware these days.

A decent number was the 19th ranking for physical health. We remain one of the least sedentary states in America, although as internet access becomes more universal, I suspect that we will eventually become a state in which the only muscles to get exercise are the right and left click ones.

But one number that went into the ranking really caught my eye.

Under "emotional health" Hawaii, was a clear number 1. Once again, no surprise there "bruddah!"

But what state had the second best "emotional health?" Alaska!

So, for all the whining and whinging and the grumbling and griping, and, yes, all the nattering nabobs of negativism that feel they really, really, really must share their dark thoughts in the Letters to the Editor columns, we really are pretty satisfied with life here in the Last Frontier

So even though the overall quality of health and happiness is pretty run of the mill in Alaska, we are still really happy to be here.




Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2009

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