Study suggests Sonoma County not as healthy, happy as years past

  • Andrea Niewald reaches for her toes with dumbbells during the LiveFit Boot Camp on the campus of Roseland Collegiate Prep on Thursday, March 29, 2013. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Are you feeling more down and out-of-shape?

You apparently aren't alone, according to a massive study of Americans released this week that showed Sonoma County falling dramatically on a scale of how they feel in terms of their emotional, spiritual and physical health.

Sonoma County ranked 39th in the nation in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for 2012, only a year after it was ranked 13th and three years after the area cracked the top five.

The most striking finding was the county's ranking in the category of emotional health, which tracks people's perceptions of whether they feel sad, angry or worried.

In 2011, the county ranked 27th in the nation in that category. In 2012, it was 126th.

The survey includes 189 communities and about 350,000 daily phone interviews conducted over the course of a year.

The 2012 findings belie what was generally considered a a pretty good year for Sonoma County. The housing market continued its rebound and companies were hiring again. Data released Friday showed that the county's unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since December 2008. Even traffic is flowing better on Highway 101 (notwithstanding all the potholes everywhere else).

Even in relatively good times, people can perceive that their lives are not what they could or should be. For many, Sonoma County is not all wine and roses.

"We have tremendous assets on the one hand in this county — a very strong food system with beautiful open space," said Peter Rumble, Director of Health Policy, Planning and Evaluation for Sonoma County Health Services. "But at the same time, there are some very isolated communities, even in urban areas like Santa Rosa, that are isolated from these assets."

The Gallup-Healthway Survey began tracking well-being in America in 2008. The phone surveys involve questions in five categories: life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behavior, and basic access to things such as clean water, safe neighborhoods, fruits and vegetables, and health care.

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