Many facets could not be covered in a Feb. 29 Maui News story on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that found Hawaii residents ranked first in well-being.
Some of those elements provide insights that go beyond the purpose of the index, a compilation of data from daily surveys conducted across the United States that Healthways expects will document factors that affect the health of Americans.
Gallup-Healthways' report (www.well-beingindex.com/) includes evidence of correlations between the different factors measured. But it does not explain why, for instance, Hawaii residents feel positive about their social and physical condition despite a relatively low level of satisfaction with work environments.
According to the survey, Hawaii ranked 44th among the 50 states in satisfaction with work environment in 2011 - down from 32nd in 2010 - despite an improving isle economy. The disparity might involve a greater ability of Hawaii residents to separate work life from social life in the island environment.
There may be another factor affecting attitudes that works positively for Hawaii, less so for other states.
One of the intriguing facets of the Well-Being Index is an explanation attached to the overall report that political attitudes can affect perceptions of social well-being. In the 2008 election year, the report says surveys included questions about elections and political processes that affected the results. Individuals asked questions about politics tended to be less positive in responding to questions about personal well-being and health ("Adjustments to Gallup-Healthways life evaluation scores," Sept. 8, 2011, www.gallup.com).
"The data showed that in today's political environment, simply asking respondents to rate the president or to indicate for which presidential candidate they plan to vote may cause them to evaluate their current and future life slightly more negatively in subsequent questions," Gallup-Healthways said.
That political effect complements an international study that finds political attitudes affect social well-being. The study, "Subjective Well-Being and National Satisfaction" (Journal of Association for Psychological Science, Nov. 22, 2011), reviews effects of national pride or patriotism - the basis for participation in politics - on perceptions of social well-being. Social scientists Tim Reeskens and Matthew Wright found national pride enhances social well-being, but there is a major difference between individuals who rate high in civic national pride and those high in ethnic national pride. It's a matter of how an individual identifies with society. Civic national pride is focused on principles of governance that apply to all; ethnic national pride focuses on shared ancestry and ethnicity. While national pride/patriotism supports a sense of "belonging" to a country, civic national pride is more inclusive and promotes social engagement.
Reeskens-Wright reported civic national pride promotes higher levels of social well-being. Ethnic national pride supports social well-being but at lower levels.
"Proud civic nationalists appear to be the happiest group by far, whereas 'nonproud' ethnic nationalists are by far the most unhappy," they said.
There are implications for the findings in the Gallup-Healthways Index, the possibility that Hawaii's rating is affected by Hawaii's multiethnic diversity that favors civic national pride over ethnic national pride. It doesn't apply throughout the index. Other states ranked high in well-being include North Dakota, Minnesota, Utah and Alaska that are less diverse, although not known to be ethnically divisive. For those states, economic stability may be a factor in social attitudes.
Conversely, states rated low in the index include many in the South - Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida - where divisiveness tends to prevail over diversity and ethnic national pride may be a factor affecting social well-being. Other low-ranking states - West Virginia, Ohio, Nevada - have experienced more severe economic disruption.
It might be small distinctions that place Hawaii at the top.
* Edwin Tanji is a former city editor of The Maui News. He can be reached at email@example.com. "Haku Mo'olelo," "writing stories," is about stories that are being written or have been written.
It appears every Friday. An expanded version of this column is posted on The Maui News blog site (www.mauinews.com).