Hawaii’s tropical island paradise isn’t really the fountain of youth, but it’s close. Hawaiians not only live longer, but they’re also less stressed and happier than residents of any other state. According to the Centers for Disease Control research, the average life expectancy for people living in Hawaii is 81.2 years, versus 75.6 years in, for example, Mississippi. And in addition to living longer lives, Hawaiians are getting happier as time goes on. For the past four years, Hawaii has taken the top spot in Gallup-Heathway’s' statewide well-being poll.
So what are the Aloha State’s secrets to happiness and longevity?
Hawaiian Time The slowed-down, low-stress island lifestyle gives Hawaiians a major health advantage. Less than one third of Hawaiian residents say they're stressed out on any given day, making them the least-stressed state population in the country. What does that slowed-down life look like? It's what they call “Hawaiian time" and the "Island lifestyle”; just enjoying time with friends and family stopping by, and taking that time to laugh and “talk story”, even if you have a busy day. Drivers will stop and wave you in to traffic, and you will only hear a car horn if someone is trying to say “howzit” to their “cousins”. I think the reason they have that healthier, longer life in the islands is because of that laid-back, “no worries” lifestyle.
Sunshine and Fresh Air Hawaii has pristine beaches, lush tropical greenery, and average temperatures in the 70s, so Hawaiians soak up plenty of sun -– and health benefits –- by spending so much of their lives outside. You get vitamin D from the sun when you're out, and it's easier to be physically active there -- you're not dealing with two feet of snow for a good chunk of the year and exposure to sunshine, fresh air and salt water has been shown to help many health problems...especially depression!
Fresh Food and Exercise People tend to eat better there and exercise more. More than 60 percent of Hawaiians exercise regularly – second only to Alaska. And the Hawaiian diet, which is heavy on fresh fish, legumes, vegetables and fruits, also helps protect the body against diseases. The climate allows for a year-round growing season and many homes have their own gardens with fruit trees, vegetables and herbs. In Hawaii, you tend to have an east-west blend of eating habits and the Hawaiian diet has many of the benefits of the Japanese diet, in addition to being low in salt and fat.
Looking on the Bright Side The optimism that is central to the Aloha spirit has proven health benefits. Hawaiians are optimistic that their lives are getting better, according to Gallup data. A growing body of research is linking happiness with good health and longevity. People with a positive life outlook may enjoy better sleep quality, and Harvard researchers have found that happiness may boost immune system functioning and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Exemplary Health Care Not all states are created equal when it comes to health and happiness, and Hawaii sets a high bar for the rest of the country. Hawaii's exemplary health care system mandates that employers provide care for any employees who work more than 20 hours a week. As a result, more people have access to health care than in most other states.
Strong Communities Hawaiians are particularly good at prioritizing spending time with family and friends –- activities that affect stress levels, well-being and longevity. The community spirit has a way of rubbing off on individuals, creating a uniquely Hawaiian perspective on life. You see more stress-resistant personalities. On the weekends, everyone's out on the beach for a cookout with Ohana (family members), neighbors and friends.
Like people in any state, Hawaiians have to deal with the reality of work and financial obligations, and many work multiple jobs to cover the high cost of living. But the true secret to the Hawaiian lifestyle may be something that can’t be measured in any poll or study: perspective. Hawaiians are experts at living lives that are more about personal relationships and rich experiences and less about money. Even though people have to work long hours, they make more time for things that have value to them -- that's Ohana (family) time.
Sun, salt air, healthy foods, a laid-back lifestyle and a strong sense of community....All things I intend to experience for myself one day soon - and you are all invited to visit!