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Americans Who Like Where They Live Are in Better Health

Key Message

Americans who feel safe while walking alone at night in the city or area where they live are in better physical health than those who do not feel safe doing so. Similarly, those who say they have easy access to a safe place to exercise in the city or area where they live are in better physical health than those who don't.


Besal, Lauren and McGeeney, Kyley. (2012). Americans Who Like Where They Live Are in Better Health. Washington, District of Columbia: Gallup.


Gallup and Healthways asked 1,000 American adults daily about their physical health and community perceptions as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The Physical Health Index includes 18 items, which measure: sick days in the past month, disease burden, health problems that get in the way of normal activities, obesity, feeling well-rested, daily energy, daily colds, daily flu, and daily headaches.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index survey Jan. 2-Dec. 29, 2011, with a random sample of 353,492 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phones numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone-only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.




Although income, education, and ethnicity are correlated with health outcomes, tapping into an individual's perceptions about where they live sheds light on community-level factors that may influence the physical health of Americans. While there may be other factors at play here, such as age, the data suggest that there is a relationship between community perceptions and health.

These findings provide support for the ecological model of health, which suggests that one's living conditions, community safety, community development, and civic engagement, among other factors, affect community members' health outcomes. The relationship between community-level perspectives and physical health may have significant implications for urban planning and community improvement efforts, particularly in light of the increase in cardiovascular disease and obesity over the past decade. According to a recent Gallup Business Journal article, U.S. cities with the highest rates of obesity spend approximately $50 million per 100,000 residents to cover the direct costs associated with obesity and related conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.


Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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