Washington, DC is the most socially networked city, with the highest well-being of large cities (sort of?)

Socially Networked Cities | Men’s Health – DC is #1 in the United States. Are we surprised?

This is an inexact science, however I did review the methodology used by Men’s Health, and specifically the NetProspex approach to counting Twitterers. Note that this is a “per capita” designation, which favors a city with richer in person connections (as one might expect a socially networked city would be) facilitated by geography and personality. DC is among the most extraverted regions in the United States (it’s #3, see these series of blog posts to learn more).

Separately, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index – Findings: City, State, and Congressional District Well-Being Reports finds that the Washington, DC Metropolitan Statistical Area is #1 in well-being among large MSA’s (among all MSA’s, Boulder, CO is #1).

Richard Florida, on his Creative Class blog, does a few regressions based on his research to tease apart the factors that contribute to well-being. I like the quote:

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert notes that there are three great decisions in life that affect your happiness: “Where to live, what to do, and with whom to do it.”

Based on my own experience and following Florida’s work, I tend to agree, and this is why when, on walking meetings, the topic drifts to what a person wants to do in their career, I always start (predictably) with, “where do you want to live?”

How well is Washington, DC?

People know I can always be counted on to get out the pom-poms when it comes to the virtues of the city I have chosen to live in, however, I’ve learned that a little openness to data is a good thing – as I posted here previously DC’s districtwide health measures are based on numbers that average extremely healthy Wards ( 2 and 3 ) with much-less-healthy Wards ( 7 and 8 ).

This is where this statement, in the Gallup press release, creates questions for me:

The Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria metro area has one of the lowest smoking rates among large metro areas in America, at 15%, and a high percentage of residents who visit a dentist at least once per year (72%). Smoking and choosing to skip the dentist are both lifestyle choices that have substantial negative health outcomes downstream.

As I’ve pointed out previously, It’s important to look beyond these favorable District-wide numbers; and good news is, people who I have spoken to who are actively working in these areas are very aware of the differences, this is just an artifact of national reporting.

There’s also a small annoyance with the Gallup website in that it groups Washington, DC within a three-state MSA, which is understandable enough, but then lists Washington, DC as a city in Virginia, and also as a city in Maryland.

This isn’t accurate to my eyes. If you think about the fact that Washington, DC is much more supportive of diverse cultures than cities in Virginia, due in part to Virginia State government’s reinstatement of employment discrimination, and we know that diversity contributes greatly to a community’s overall happiness (see Florida’s work), I’d encourage doing more than fixing this with a footnote.– can’t DC get its own report?

I celebrate my choice of city, I encourage others to celebrate their choice (as Florida points out “Not everyone is happy with the same kind of city”), and I suggest looking carefully at the rankings of anything because there’s always more work to be done to support a community’s health. I say this with great respect for the work to understand the well-being of communities.

See what you think/if you agree based on where you’ve chosen to live – what does it tell you about your city that you didn’t know and what do you know differently?

3 Replies to “Washington, DC is the most socially networked city, with the highest well-being of large cities (sort of?)”

  1. Wow – lumping DC as a city w/in MD and VA does it such a disservice. To your prior blog posts, DC definitely deserves its own report and there are significant discrepancies between wards. Those of us working to improve health in the District need national reporting numbers so we can quantify opportunities and measure success!

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