Wealth Is What the 10 Healthiest Communities in America Have in Common

Telluride, Colorado. Photo: Getty Images / Blaine Harrington III
When U.S. News & World Report put together its 2021 healthiest communities rankings, it examined 10 factors, including population health, equity, and economy. Though "economy" is the fourth-most-weighted category, five of the overall top 10 healthiest communities are also in the top 10 economically prosperous communities (compared to one to two cities of overlap in all other categories). Wealth, apparently, makes it much easier to score high marks across the board.

To develop the economic scores, U.S. News & World Report analyzed several key elements that contribute to well-being. "The economic distinction was based on the Economy category in the Healthiest Communities rankings, which includes measures of household income, poverty rate, households receiving public assistance income, people with medical debt, unemployment, labor force participation, weekly wages, job diversity, job proximity, and business growth," reads its website. The top 10 healthiest communities all fell within the top 35 percent of the ranked economic scale.

Experts In This Article

Top 10 healthiest communities in the United States

  1. Los Alamos County, New Mexico (ranked No. 150 for economy)
  2. Douglas County, Colorado (ranked No. 2 for economy)
  3. Falls Church City, Virginia (ranked No. 3 for economy)
  4. Loudoun County, Virginia (ranked No. 1 for economy)
  5. Broomfield County, Colorado (ranked No. 4 for economy)
  6. San Miguel County, Colorado (ranked No. 177 for economy)
  7. Pitkin County, Colorado (ranked No. 103 for economy)
  8. Howard County, Maryland (ranked No. 10 for economy)
  9. Mogan County, Utah (ranked No. 114 for economy)
  10. Routt County, Colorado (ranked No. 159 for economy)

Census data from 2019 shows that Los Alamos County, which also ranked as the top healthiest community in 2020, has a median household income of over $121,324, which is nearly double the United States median household income of $68,703. Loudoun County, Virginia, which received the top economy score, has a median household income of $142,229 with just 3.1 percent of its residents living in poverty.

In many cases, wealth is health. People with higher incomes are more likely to have the money and flexibility of time to access preventative health care services. And if they do fall ill, they're more likely to have comprehensive health care and be able to afford any out-of-pocket costs. Earlier this year, Matthew Killingsworth, PhD, a senior fellow and happiness researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, published research looking at the happiness levels of over 33,000 individuals. He found that well-being increases with income. "Larger incomes were robustly associated with both greater experienced well-being and greater evaluative well-being," he wrote in the study.

“Anybody who says that money doesn’t buy happiness has never done their grocery shopping at the dollar store,” says clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. “Money buys safety and security. It can buy belonging by allowing you to do the same things and wear similar clothes to your friends and co-workers. It means that you can have health insurance and free time and exercise equipment at your house, or live in a neighborhood where you can go running at night safely. You can afford vacations, massages, and put money away so that you’re less afraid of emergencies.”

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