Reasons for Community Attachment, Happiness, & Well-Being: Thoughts from Richard Florida, Forbes, & Gallup-Healthways.

Introduction: Three Domains of Community Attachment, according to Richard Florida
In “Soul of the City,” Dr. Richard Florida examined the reasons people have for attachment to their communities, and the top three are openness, social offerings, and aesthetics. This article was a result of a giant survey called “Soul of the Community” through a partnership between the Gallup Organization and Knight Foundation.

The other seven domains are infrastructure, the economy, safety, leadership, education, civic involvement, and social capital. While the economic crisis is the number one concern of Americans, it does not have as major an effect on community attachment as openness, social offerings, and aesthetics. Recall the 4T’s of creating a good environment for economic development, according to Dr. Florida: talent, tolerance, technology, and territorial assets.

Happiness according to Forbes Magazine
Now that we’ve examined the features of a good environment, let’s look at the main reasons for an individual’s happiness: free of pain, rested, respected, and intellectually engaged. These four categories came from “The World’s Happiest Countries,” by Francesca Levy. Between 2005 and 2009, the Gallup World Poll surveyed thousands of respondents in 155 countries, in order to measure two types of well-being: overall life evaluation and how you felt the previous day, according to those four categories. Then the researchers classified people as either thriving or struggling. Importantly, the researchers point out that how we evaluate our happiness–overall and recently—affects our decision-making.

Let’s look at the term “intellectually engaged.” What if you can’t read? Researchers need to integrate findings from throughout social science and education. The Texas A&M Department of Education and Human Development report that 19% of adult Texans can’t read a newspaper. The statistics get far worse near the Rio Grande Valley. Smith County, where Tyler is the county seat, beats the state average with only 13% illiteracy. What if you don’t want to be intellectually engaged? Many feel that desegregation inadvertently led to African American underachievement in the schools, particularly among those who stayed in Black communities. Suddenly, doing well in school meant one was “acting White,” and the crafty street toughs became the new role models. On the other hand, the previously all-White suburbs experienced an influx of Black professionals while the Black communities lost many of their middle-class role models and plenty of neighborhood businesses too.

The Scandinavian Countries are the happiest: Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden take the top four places. The Netherlands is number five. Making a good salary accounts for a good deal of these countries’ happiness but not all of it. Denmark had a per-capita GDP of $36,000 in 2009, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. That’s higher than 196 of the 227 countries for which the CIA collects statistics.” Still that means Denmark is only #31 in average yearly income. Costa Rica is the happiest country in the Americas at number six world wide, because of tight social networks that provide social and psychological prosperity, according to the Gallup World Poll. That Central American country finished ahead of the wealthier United States on the happiness measures.

However, a survey reported by the British news website, The Guardian, rated Costa Rica as #1 by “combining measures of their ecological footprint with the happiness of their citizens.” The New Economics Foundation (NEF) developed the Happy Planet Index (HPI) The Netherlands was the highest rated Western country by NEF. The Dutch levels of life satisfaction are about the same as the US, and the Dutch live one year longer than Americans. Yet the Dutch “per capita ecological footprint is less than half the size” of Americans. “The Netherlands is therefore over twice as environmentally efficient at achieving good lives as the US,” according to NEF.

Relaxed and Fit
Let’s look at a study of the most relaxed cities in the US since two of the four happiness measures are “rested” and “free of pain.” “High unemployment, heavy traffic and long working hours” lead to stress. On the other hand, access to health care and self-ratings of health lead to a relaxed state of mind. Minneapolis-St. Paul and Milwaukee are the top two relaxed American cities. A city with a culture of exercise has less stress and more relaxation. “Four cities that make the list are known for residents who love the outdoors” and have higher than average exercise rates: 4. Portland, OR, 6. Denver, CO, 7.Seattle, WA, and 10. San Jose, CA.

Tyler, Texas has won regional recognition for its Fit City Challenge based on better nutrition, exercise, stricter smoking ordinances, and more. Northeast Texas Public Health received a grant in March 2012 of roughly $3/4 million, largely through the Fit City efforts.

Gallup-Healthways Domains of Well-Being
Gallup developed another measure of well-being with six domains that it used from 2008-13
•Life Evaluation: Present and Prediction of five years from now–different from overall and yesterday.
•Emotional Health: includes respect and learning/doing something interesting, amount of smiling and laughter.
•Physical Health: includes well-rested, sick days in the last month, and chronic problems that get in the way of daily activity.
•Healthy Behavior: exercise, healthy diet, not smoking.
•Work Environment–All Four–Job satisfaction, Ability to use one’s strengths at work, Supervisor’s treatment (more like a boss or a partner), and Supervisor creates an open and trusting work environment.
•Basic Access: the largest category with 13 categories, such as enough money for food, shelter, and health care; satisfaction with the community, area getting better, access to health insurance and more.
In 2014, Gallup-Healthways developed a new five-point index The updated Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index includes five elements of well-being, each with its own score on a 0-10 scale:
•Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
•Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life
•Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
•Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
•Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

My suggestions for future research in happiness and well-being point toward feelings about government at the national, state, and local level through the following additional questions: (1a) Do you have confidence in your government at the national, state, and local level? (1b) How strongly do you feel about these opinions. {Not everyone watches the news constantly}. (2) Do you feel that extremists present a danger to your country? This is just the beginning.

To conclude, researchers today have developed excellent categories for analyzing community attachment, happiness and well-being, as well as their opposites. Richard Florida showed that openness, social offerings, and aesthetics bring community attachment. Happiness as being free of pain, rested, respected, and intellectually engaged came from “The World’s Happiest Countries,” by Francesca Levy. Importantly, these studies have been conducted in countries throughout the world and in cities throughout the US. Forbes magazine has been a major source. One can see how the categories can interlock also. Finally Gallup-Healthways have developed two domains for assessing well-being. Physical health is a recurring theme in all of these systems. Are you happy? If you’re unhappy, you should be able to identify the reasons more easily than before this research was conducted.

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