Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Invisible Ties

Last week as I glanced at the Kansas City Star, I was met with the headlines:

Missouri Makes top 10 of most miserable states. 

 I was immediately inundated with questions popping into my head.I mean...really..It's a banner headline in a Missouri newspaper and they are touting it as a "top ten" achievement.  Are they under the impression that this is a GOOD thing?

 Anyway, as I was saying...I have questions.

1.  Was there a contest to enter so the states might  win the"Most Miserable" title and is there a prize?

2.  What qualifies a state to be deemed miserable? 

3. While it's true I live in Kansas, I am just 5 minutes away from the Missouri side of town...does this impact me in some way? Could the Missouri misery spill over to Kansas?

4.  Where did Kansas rate and did it lose points for sharing a town with Missouri?

Most of my regular readers know that I have moved multiple times in my life.  I think I am currently at 39 moves, give or take, .... but 21 moves for sure since my marriage 42 years ago.  So as you might conclude, I have lived in numerous states and have conflicting loyalties.  I have lived in several cities within Missouri and for the life of me,  I never remember feeling miserable.  OK..maybe a tad miserable with morning sickness when Kiddo #2 was born while living in Independence,  Missouri but I can hardly blame the state for that.  I would go so far as to say I have had very pleasant experiences in the state so...really?...how miserable can it be?

Upon further research I find that this" less than flattering" title is a result of a poll done by the Gallup Healthways organization called State of American Well Being. The word MISERABLE isn't exactly what the pollsters had in mind, when creating their study, I would guess.  However, every article I have read related to this poll does refer to M word.  If you would like to see the report in it's entirety you can click here.  There is a link on their website so you can download the full report...but here is the result of the study.

Some climbing and some sliding in a year's time.

After 178,072 people were surveyed  from every state in the Union..these are the winners and/or losers.
As it turned out Kansas came in 20th from the top for well-being....OR if you are a "half glass empty" sort of person we are 30th up from being the most miserable state of the Union.  West Virginia was the winner of that title.

Thought Number One:  Isn't Misery in the Eye of the Beholder?

I looked over the lists and see many of the states I have resided in such as Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois and not one of them has ever taken the top prize for being the least miserable place to live.   In fact, four of them are ranked next to each other.  HMMM...maybe I am so used

Doesn't "MOST" mean they won the
greatest number of points in some catagories?

to being moderately miserable that I have become numb to it....but then when I lived in Iowa and Nebraska wouldn't I have felt the surge of being "less miserable"?  If, so it went unnoticed. 

It could be said if you factor things like longevity, health, workplace safety, job availability, economic climate, and such that "on paper" one state might appear better than the next but is that what a person would need to have a sense of  them well-being?  If we are talking about how stable and secure, or how happy and content a person feels about the place they live in...do any of the hard statistical facts really matter?

How can a study prove statistically why  people (like my husband and I) would leave Texas where it is warm and sunny to live in Kansas*...where it looks like this today...

*Note:  It has already been established at this point that I am not good at picking the "winner" states.

At this point ....you doubt my sanity don't you?

BECAUSE...part of what makes us feel a sense of well being is being near our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons. 

Thought Number Two:  The Ties that Bind

I am on most days very happy in Kansas but this isn't the place that all my ancestors before me made their mark.  I am a relative newcomer to this state so while I am content to live here, I also don't have a firm ties that would keep me from ever moving if my children or grandchildren moved out of the area. Conversely, I wouldn't badmouth the state as it provides me with a safe, decent place to live where I don't worry for my safety. It rankles me a bit when people make negative, stereotypical, comments about the Midwest.

As with most things there are both the good and the bad to every state, province or country a person would choose. 

BUT... back to my point that some people's love of "their" homeland isn't hinging on statistics of how many hospitals or parks are in a certain geographical area... some of the people I have met have such a deep unshakable bond to this state because this is where their family history lies. It is hard to quantify why people are attached to an area. 

Take for example my friend Christi. I have talked about her before to those of you that have been reading my blog for awhile.  She is the friend that died last September while waiting for an organ donor to give her some new lungs.  Christi loved Kansas like no other person I have met.  She loved this state with every ounce of her being. She grew up near the Flint Hills and found a beauty there that most people just can't see in the flat plains of the Midwest.

There is a certain beauty if one goes looking for it but it's easily overlooked in the plainness of the prairie. 

Flint Hills Photography :: James Nedresky photographer --link to website

Christi spent a lot of time in the Flint Hills.  Once she and her husband went hiking in the hills until after dark. They laid down in the tall grass and looked  up at the stars.  She referred to that night as "her starry, starry night"  It was there that  her ashes were scattered.

Christi would have been offended at being ranked 20th...although she might of laughed at the 43rd ranking of Missouri.


Chubby Chatterbox said...

I don't put much stock in these polls, but then Oregon never seems to appear at the top of any of these lists.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I have a very strong sense of place. It comes from family history, birth place and ties to the land. I enjoy visiting other places and lands but it was wrenching for me to move away from my home prairie province of Manitoba.

Cheryl P. said...

I think polls over all have flaws. It is hard to put statistical data together for something elusive like "well being". I could live in North Dakota and feel very much alone and vulnerable but move to West Virginia and thrive. I have visited both of those states and I don't have any complaints on either....but I really felt like Charleston, W. Virginia was charming. They took a huge hit in the poll because of work environments. (coal mines) As I don't plan on ever being a coal miner, how does that impact me? Nada

Cheryl P. said...

You are lucky to have a sense of home. I moved a lot as a kid and as an a adult ....so while there are a lot of places I have fond memories of, there isn't a definite place that I would say that has a history tied to it. My husband, on the other hand, comes from a community that was his home since birth and full of assorted family. I think having "a place" is a wonderful thing.

Iluvbeingagrandpa said...

Yep, I am content to be "Home" with my beautiful bride of 40 plus years, my children and my "G" boys. The car and plane can take me for visits where ever I want to (and can afford to go".....but home is a beautiful place...because "there's no place like home" right Dorthy....great post ...as always

Riot Kitty said...

Multiple thoughts like a cat, forgive me - 1. your grandsons are SO FREAKING CUTE!! 2. I think you are the only person who have moved more times than I have. I'm still in the 20s. 3. I live in Oregon, which was #24 last year and #25 this year. Does this mean I'm slightly more miserable this year already? Or has it yet to happen, and this is a forecast?

You've got to love whoever came up with this and made money and ran.

Cheryl P. said...

Well, I would also, say that I consider my house, my home but in terms of the area of the country you think of as your "home" that would be different, wouldn't it? You aren't getting buried in the state you currently live. Nor do the gazillion people that have inbred to form your family...OK...you know there is a nugget of truth in that.

Cheryl P. said...

Riot Kitty, do cats have multiple thoughts? Do my little cats think conflicting thoughts like their human mom?

1. Thank you for the kudos on my grandsons. I do find them rather adorable.

2. The reason I have moved so many more times over your # of moves is that my age is many times over your age #. ***sniff, sob, sniff**

3. As with all polls...some things you just can't put numbers to. My sense of well being isn't related to where I live as much as how I live. I am sure that the Oregon number isn't an omen. Unless, there is some guy in Oregon that is about to rob a bank or something stupid...then Oregon is going to suck this year for him.

Which kind of makes me think of a friend of ours..(not the bank robbing part but the idea of well being part) Anywho...This friend of ours, retired from a big corporate job, started his own business and then chucked it all to move to the middle of nowhere in Montana. I am not kidding...middle of nowhere. The land belonged to generations of his family. He built a cabin on it. My husband went up there to see him at one point and couldn't find the cabin. No paved roads, no cell signal. In fact, hubby was starting to panic thinking if he ran out of gas he would be just a rotting corpse before anyone could find him. Anyway...our friend and his wife, say they have never been as happy as they are on that land. One person's sense of well being is another person's nightmare. How can you make a statistic out of that and have it be anything other than a guess?

Jo-Anne said...

I often wonder where they so call experts get there information, because no one ever asks me about these things. Oh yeah I know I don't live in the USA but still we get these sort of studies and such here down under and no one asks me how I feel

Cheryl P. said...

I have rarely participated in surveys, either. I would be curious of some of these types of surveys to see what some of the people had to say but the pollsters never release much information other that the number of people that participated. You have to wonder if any of the people that were surveyed in West Virginia said anything nice.

Cheryl said...

I've always thought West Virginia was one of this country's most beautiful states with a rich history of families homesteading on the same property for generations. Sadly, it's not a state with a highly educated population nor one where high-paying jobs are prevalent.

Cheryl said...

The entire survey is completely skewed because of the data sources they used, I'm not sure why anyone would even take it seriously. Phone surveys are doomed to be completely inaccurate because of caller ID (hell no, I don't want to take a survey) and more importantly, cell phone users are not going to be included because, so far, selling those numbers is still mostly off-limits.

All of these surveys are highly unscientific and don't live up to the attention-grabbing names they're given. My favorite survey was "Most Drunken States" where NH topped the list. NH's state-run liquor stores sell cheap alcohol in stores located right on the major interstates or an inch from the exits. Beer and wine can all be bought in almost any type of store, including convenience stores attached to gas stations. We border Canada, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, all of which have high taxes on alcohol so guess where those folks go to grab their liquor, beer, and wine? When this one hit social media sites, we all had a blast with it because we do love our irony up here.

I know this reads like I got way off-topic, but I figured I'd put a fine point on how ridiculous these things can be. In general, the more difficult it is to access and afford necessities, the less healthy and happy people are going to be. What that list more accurately highlighted were areas where poverty levels are high, income levels are low, low probability of an influx of new industries creating new jobs, and a poor outlook for economic recovery.

Cheryl P. said...

I totally agree with you that most, if not all of these types of surveys are skewed (aka..total crap). On this particular survey, there is a double load of crap because everyone reporting the results are using the word "miserable" and the original poll was based (in theory) on if people in that state were well taken care of thereby having a sense of "well being". Two totally different things, in my mind. Even in terms of the loser states...they took HUGE hits for unemployment while North Dakota has so many available jobs people are sleeping in their pickup trucks in Williston, ND to work in the jobs that are paying 6 figures to entice workers to fill them. The rent there is exorbitant thanks to the shortage. Average rent hovering around $2300 for a studio. While presently perhaps ND is feeling pretty secure about job availability but if I moved there, living in my SUV would know the shit out of my sense of well being..whether I was working or not.
I would rather have my house here in KC and figure out what jobs are available locally.

According to CNN:

At 3.5%, North Dakota's unemployment rate is the lowest in the country. (Nationwide, the rate is 9.1%). But among the small towns that lie along the Bakken oil formation, like Williston, Watford City and Belfield, unemployment is just 1.5%.

But I digress...my point is that it appears that the Gallup people are over reaching on the job opportunities as the major criteria for well being.

That was just one of my beefs with this survey. I have lived in 6 cities in Missouri. All different in terms of economic development. As my husband had one employer that kept us fairly secure...did it matter to me in terms of my well being, how many jobs were available. Or for that matter, how many hospitals were in town or parks. Those are nice but my sense of well being is a combination of things that no survey can calculate.

Just as you pointed out about the skewed liquor sales. Those hard statistics can't take into account the variables like neighboring liquor taxes/sales etc.

I too, love irony and there was a lot of it in the articles I read on this study. But it especially caught my attention that the local media kept reporting this "ranked in the bottom ten" as if it were a "win" of some sort. Just like when they report that the county with the most meth labs in the U.S is in southern Missouri. (Green county I think) I think it is lost on them that being the Meth Capital of the U.S isn't a good thing.

Cheryl P. said...

Oh..one more thing..Have I mentioned how much I enjoy your well thought out comments. I do appreciate your input. You dig into the topic...I LOVE THAT.

Thanks, Cheryl. (that looks funny...not from Cheryl but thanking Cheryl)

Cheryl said...

I think it really comes down to attention-grabbing headlines with both the surveys and your local newspaper that, like most print-media, is struggling to stay alive. That the surveys and articles don't follow through with anything substantial has become so ordinary that people don't even care what pablum they're being fed. Gotta get those clicks and sell those rags or else your business venture is gonna fold.

I think it's impossible to gauge feelings of well-being across any group because everyone bases their bliss on different factors.

I think you'll appreciate this from McSweeney's which pokes fun at just how much of an impact headlines have on our lives. http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/confessions-of-an-upworthy-editor

Cheryl said...

Your posts always get my mind twirling around and it's fun to have a civil discussion with you and some of your other readers. Since I found you, I know I've written more here than on my own blog. :D

Cheryl P. said...

Oh that is certainly true. The title of any given article may or may not be a scam at this point. I often am so hooked by the headline and then sorely disappointed at the content. Man Loses 800 Pounds with Secret Method. (yeh, his secret is he had bypass)

Speaking of rags...there is a thought that publications like the Star and the Enquirer are sort of a joke compared to the mainstream press....but the gap is closing in the type of news and how the stories are handled between the two.

I am still an avid newspaper reader but there is hardly an issue that doesn't have me rolling my eyes.

That article you sent was really funny. Hah..I have wasted a lot of opportunities to grab people's attention, I guess. Although, he did mention he has gotten beat up and divorced. Thanks for sending that...it was a fun read.

Cheryl P. said...

Agree...I use to spend a lot of time on work trips in Charleston, W. Virginia. I thought it was a charming town. One of the articles I read said it was the employment situation that continually tanks their ranking

lisleman said...

I wonder if their survey included the following question - When and in what state did you receive your last traffic ticket?
Could the survey responders complain about any state or just the one they currently lived in? I dislike Indiana. Multiple bad restrooms on a trip through the state once.
Also what state of mind were these people in? Just think of survey of Coloradans (sp?) after their recreational pot session. Dude, Colorado is the - what was the question?

Katherine Murray said...

That is actually quite an interesting list. Hawaii ... not everyone is happy there... my neighbor's daughter lives there and works, as does her husband. The cost of living and low wages for locals...? She picks fruit off the trees in her back yard for food sometimes... on nights they can't afford the store. I guess it is all how you look at it... or WHO you look at. Virginia seems to be in a good place... Colorado is interesting.

This part?
"Christi spent a lot of time in the Flint Hills. Once she and her
husband went hiking in the hills until after dark. They laid down in the
tall grass and looked up at the stars. She referred to that night as
"her starry, starry night" It was there that her ashes were scattered."

That gave me chills... my heart caught in my throat. BEAUTIFUL.

Cheryl P. said...

That might of state down someone's praise for a state. I have had two traffic tickets in my life and both were in Kansas. Lucky for Kansas, the Gallup people didn't ask me to participate in their survey.

One of the things that I find annoying about gallop polls is they don't have the actual questions and percentages of how they were answered. (not that I could find any way) I would like to know what was asked specifically.

I was rather surprised at the Colorado score going down since last year. I wonder if any of their questions dealt with recreational pot. Funny.... the way you envision the questioning. I envision that whatever the problems are in CO, residents are less agitated about them.

As a native of Illinois (for that matter we still have a place there) I was also surprised by their placement going up. The last time we went home (yes, we still consider that home) we both noticed all the griping about Illinois government...especially things like road improvements and such. Your state is upward mobile. Gosh, maybe in a year or two you will take down North Dakota.

lisleman said...

I don't put much faith in those polls either. Hey our current governor has gone from Jan. 2009 without being indicted so that's good.

Polling is not an exact process. I agree the way the questions are presented makes a big difference. The polling before elections bother me. People should not allow polling results influence them.
CO residents are less agitated - good one.

Cheryl P. said...

I found a lot of interesting placements on that list. I agree about Hawaii...My husband was offered a job there about 10 years ago. He went over to look for housing for us. What a nightmare. It wasn't only the cost of housing (which was ridiculous by Midwest standards) it was the whole package. High food prices, high taxes, cost to get to the mainland to see our family. Ultimately, we realized while it is beautiful, it wouldn't of been our perfect place.

Yeah, the drop in Colorado ranking is interesting, isn't it?

As for Christi...It's odd how often I associate things I see or read these days to her. In the 6 months she has been gone, I tend to remember all of our little conversations that were just girl talk at the time. I have never met anyone that LOVED/LOVES their state like she did. I wish it were possible to replicate her story about how beautiful the stars were as she laid in the darkness. It's so interesting what memories might make the "most precious" list when all is said and done.

Cheryl P. said...

I am amused in a sick sort of way with Illinois politics. As I have mentioned all my and my husband's brothers worked for the state. As of this year, all have retired. Our family get-togethers are one big running gag on Illinois politics. Quinn is up for re-election in 2014 isn't he? He had better get on it if he wants to join the jail house gang that has gone before him.

I agree with you about the pre-election polls. The minute the media starts touting who is ahead in the polls, people start jumping on the band wagon.

lisleman said...

"amused in a sick sort of way" - comedy takes all types of forms. Hey, I just checked out a new (new to me) Disqus feature called Featured Comment. I thought I would try it out on one of your comments since you appear to be online. Your comment is "featured" on my previous post about commenting. I'm wondering if Disqus notifies you of it being featured. thanks

Cheryl P. said...

I didn't realize there was a new feature. I have to go get educated on how that works. I will let you know if I get a notification. Thanks for letting me know about this.

Life, Laughter and Paris said...

Congratulations! Missouri made it to the top ten! But sorry, you don't have one of the ugliest cities. :) We need a poll to find out how accurate these polls are!

oldereyes said...

Sorry to be late. Things have been crazy around here. I went and read the study you linked. "The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index
provides an in-depth, real-time view of Americans' well-being, giving
governments, communities, employers and health plans unmatched insight
into the health of their populations." What a crock of pseudo-scientific crap. How good a measure of well being can their index be when states change their rank by fifteen or twenty places in ONE YEAR. What could happen in 12 months to make North Dakota jump from 19th to 1st or Alaska from 34th to 16th. My guess is that the rankings are very close so that a small change causes a large change in rank, which in my business (real science) would make their index a lousy measure for ranking. Yes,I know ... this may be the most boring comment you've ever had on a post. Sociologists pretending to be scientist is a pet peeve.

Cheryl P. said...

Kansas City probably didn't make the ugliest city cut because no one from Gallup organization knows where Kansas City is. We have the distinction of being the largest major city that most people have never been to.

Haha...if there was a poll to find out the accuracy of polls...we would assume that it was inaccurate.

Cheryl P. said...

Never be sorry about being late...I am perpetually late reading posts as of late.

Your comments BTW are never boring. As to the poll...(and a lot of polls for that matter) their results are based on a premise that is subjective or ill-defined.

One of the glaring problems that I found was how the media, including the press releases are referring the poll's results to the level of being "miserable", which isn't the same thing as not feeling a sense of well being. I might not feel secure with a lot of things and still not feel miserable.

They are putting a lot of emphasis on socioeconomic factors in defining the well being of an entire state. North Dakotas current influx of high paying jobs moved them to the top of the heap but I can't believe that has improved things like the overall health of their citizens.

I also am questioning the vast differences in the rankings in one year on a number of the states. What happened in Wyoming last year? or Nevada?

The only good thing that I see about this poll is bragging rights. My state is ranked higher on physical health over both your states and according to the poll you guys live healthier lives. So I get to not take care of myself and I will still be ahead. I should go out and get myself some donuts.

abeerfortheshower said...

It's so-called "studies" like this that always make me laugh at the need people seem to have to categorize one another. I'm from Colorado so I'm "most likely" to be happy. What does that even mean? Am I only happy because I live here, and if I moved to West Virginia (#50) I'd put a bullet in my head? What happened if I woke up one morning and my house burned down, killing all 5 of my animals, killing my wife, and leaving me homeless and carless?

"Well, that sucks, but at least I'm still living in Colorado!" - 2nd happiest guy in the nation, 2012.

It reminds me of that ridiculous study that came out a while back where it showed the average penis size compared by state. If you're from a certain state, you're "more likely" to have a bigger one or a smaller one. And again, what does that mean "more likely"? I already have what I have and nothing will change that. That's just genetics. If I move to New York, I'm not going to magically gain an inch, just like if I move to Idaho I'm not going to lose an inch. How is this even labeled as science?

What I'm saying is, if I knew how much time and money these "scientists" spent on these kinds of pointless studies, I'd probably kill myself and send Colorado plummeting right down that list.

Cheryl P. said...

I totally agree that these studies make me laugh. There are so many variables. I have property in two states (although I tend to live in Kansas most of the time) ...but then I have lived in other states far longer than I have lived here. Do I get a composite score for all the states I have resided in? Do I get to choose the best scores from all the places I have lived?
I always find it interesting that there are so many polls concerning the availabilty of healthcare and how cities/states rate. Availability and affordabilty are two seperate things.
As for the penis study...if there was truth the the relationship of penis size to which state you live in, I would think there would be a lot of people moving. Pity the state that was ranked 50th. It might be on the verge of becoming a ghost town..er ghost state I guess.
BTW I didn't see the penis size per state study but I did see the penis size per ethnicity study. I would of put a banner on the front of of our house proclaiming that the Dutch ranked in the top ten but my husband wasn't thinking I needed to proclaim victory on his behalf.

Wendy said...

Oh Cheryl, I had SO much fun tracking the downward lines. Wyoming went from 13 to 34th? What's up with that? Is there something happening there that is causing mass misery? Or wait, am i reading this right? Gosh there is such a blend of colours in this chart, how did you track it all? Where I live is considered one of the top 10 places in the world to live (surely you jest if you think i plan to type that city name here...we are trying to keep it a secret!) and yet, one of the most expensive. So, beautiful to live here, but expensive- which one makes me miserable, or not?If they'd surveyed me, I guess it would depend on if I'd had a wonderful day in the warm sunshine while you were shivering back there in the snow, or if I'd just had to readjust my finances, once again. And oh yes, you do get extra bonus points for the sunflowers, clearly because that is a terrific drawing of Crabby Pants amidst a field of sunflowers (hopefully that image warmed you up thinking of summer) but also because they are my favourite. I've even attached a photo from my garden last year, just to make sure you stay 'not miserable' to keep your state's rating high ;)

Beverly Steeves said...

being canadian we would never admit to being miserable. we would march onward until we fell frozen solid in the snow. on the weekend it was -44 here. i'm sure if alberta were an american state we would win the misery ribbon.

Cheryl P. said...

Yes, that is true....whining about the weather is just one of the many popular American pastimes. I swear if it rains, the media will interupt regular programming and talk ad nauseum about it. When I lived in Nebraska there was less whining about the cold but -44 would bring even Nebraskans to their knees.
I haven't figured out how the rankings came out as they did. The top winner in one of our less populated states and one that is known for harsh winters.

Dexter Klemperer said...

I have found the older I get, the farther south my misery latitudinal line ventures. Like right now, I will never live further north than Dallas. By next year, it will probably be nothing further north then Austin.

Cheryl P. said...

I liked living in the Dallas area but I hear Austin is a very nice place. (Weird and wanting to keep it Weird) I would say that perhaps you should be careful if that trend of going south keeps moving. You might find yourself on a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lady Jewels Diva said...

I guess it all depends on whether you think the area you live in is adequate for your needs. Even though where I live is behind my local shopping centre where my chiro is, the doctor is across the road etc, the area itself is shit because of all the deaths, accidents and murders going on.

By the way, you in a chicken suit makes me hungry!

Cheryl P. said...

All in all, I think the poll is a heap of crap. There are great places in every state and horrible places as well. AND what one person might think of as great another would hate. The sense of well being has more to do with the person than with the state.

hahaha...I am sure I wouldn't taste like chicken.