To create the list, Dan Buettner, a NatGeo fellow who writes about longevity and health, enlisted the help of Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. Witters designed an index of 15 metrics that contribute to happiness, including how often people visit the dentist, take vacations and receive recognition for improving their communities. Then, he analyzed 250,000 interviews ― conducted between 2014 and 2015 in 190 metropolitan areas ― to see how each city measured up.
Boulder was the clear winner, partly due to its strong sense of community and access to nature, followed by Santa Cruz and Charlottesville. Most of the happiest metros were in the West and along coasts, and lowest-ranking areas were in the eastern central part of the U.S.