Outdoor exercise for health and wellness

Best and Worst States for Health & Wellness in 2022

The terms "wellness" and "self-care" used to be niche phrases you might only hear at an ashram or on a retreat—these days, they are an everyday catchphrase. In the United States and across the globe, more people than ever are in search for a healthy lifestyle that includes activities which promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

The numbers suggest this trend isn't going away anytime soon: the wellness industry has been valued above $4 trillion per year and is projected to reach $7 trillion in value by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute. Now more than ever, Americans are prioritizing their health and wellness by incorporating activities such as exercise, healthy eating, nutrition, supplements, yoga and meditation into their daily routines.

2022: The Year of Self-Care

Coming off the heels of the pandemic which permeated 2020 and 2021, this increased interest in wellness couldn't come at a better time: we are still in the throes of a difficult time in history, after all, and the stress is real. The World Health Organization reported a 25% increase in anxiety and depression globally—which certainly coincides with the economic, political and health uncertainties that have marked the past few years.

As we persevere during these times and look to emerge stronger, wellness will only play a larger role in people's lives. With more people working remotely and having the option to live anywhere on the map they choose, access to wellness services and activities may influence where people decide to hang their hats.

The Healthiest Places to Live in the U.S.

So where can you find the best environment to support a healthy lifestyle? As a company that is passionate about helping people live a healthier life, we wanted to help people find their "happy place" and their healthy place. We conducted this report to measure which are the best and worst states for wellness in 2022.

To determine which are the best and worst states for wellness we analyzed 11 metrics across three main categories: physical and mental health (CDC), access to nature and parks (National Park Service) and integrative health practices (Google Trends).

The Best and Worst States for Wellness

California is the No. 1 best state, followed by Arizona and Florida – a testament to the impact sunshine has on a person's well-being. Alabama is the No. 1 worst state, followed by Oklahoma and Louisiana. The Midwest is the only region not to have a state score in the top five (or top 10), while four of the five of the bottom-scoring states are in the South.

SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Park Service, U.S. Census Bureau, Google trends

1. Physical & Mental Health

To understand the physical and mental health status of Americans in each state, we analyzed data from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. This is where the government collects data on the preventative health practices of Americans by conducting phone interviews covering dozens of health-related topics.

We performed custom queries on "The percentage of adults that reported…"

  • No poor physical health days in the past two weeks
  • No poor mental health days in the past two weeks
  • Getting at least seven hours of sleep in the past 24 hours
  • Getting physical exercise in the past month

In some cases, these findings are not surprising, given the overall rankings. For example, Nevada, which had the sixth-worst score among all states, was in the bottom 10 for three of these four categories. On the other hand, overall top-ranked California did not place in the top for any of these categories, although it also wasn't in the bottom 10, either.

Here is a look at the best and worst states in each of these four physical and mental health categories.

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2. Access to Parks and Nature

Spending time outdoors is inherently good for your health and is often associated with exercise (hiking, biking, running), which improves biomarkers for physical health as well as mental well-being. Nothing makes it more convenient to connect with  nature than having a national park in your backyard—or close to it! So, we calculated the percentage of land in each state that is devoted to national parks using the most recent data from the National Park Service and the U.S. Census Bureau.

We found a major connection between the percentage of land in each state devoted to national parks and having a higher score on our wellness index. Among the overall 10 best states for wellness, all but one (New Jersey) have a higher-than-average percentage of land used for national parks.

D.C. was No. 1 with 22 percent of land set aside for national parks, followed by Alaska and Hawaii. While four states do not have any national parks – Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma (U.S. average: 3.8%).

Percentage of land devoted to national parks

Best States

Worst States

District of Columbia




















Source: National Park Service and the U.S. Census Bureau

3. Interest in Integrative Health Practices

Few things have contributed to human society more than Western medicine, which has led to the eradication of deadly diseases and an increase in life expectancy.

However, there are still some maladies Western medicine cannot seem to cure, such as stress, anxiety, or chronic pain that can't be explained by an MRI.  

That is why a large portion of the wellness movement sweeping the nation is Americans seeking to complement Western medicine with a more holistic approach to health.

This ranges from yoga and meditation to taking vitamins and dietary supplements. CDC data shows 48 percent of adults used supplements in 2008 compared to 56 percent in 2018, the most recent data available.

To determine where in the U.S. there is the greatest interest in integrative health practices in 2022, we used Google Trends data from early June to see where Americans searched for six key wellness terms over the past year: meditation, yoga, mindfulness, healthy diet, vitamins, and supplements.

Google trends reports relative search volume for each term and provides a score in each state of 0-100. The state with the most searches for each term will receive 100 and states with less searches receive lower scores.

Below we list the five best and worst state across each of the six terms that were searched, and the complete data in this section was factored into the overall Best and Worst States for Wellness rankings.

Wellness Topics by User Searches

Highest and lowest states in relative search volume (0-100 scale) for given topic

SOURCE: Google trends data | Note: Supplements data based on search topic "Dietary supplements"


We all drive our own destinies, and with the right nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle choices, you can live your healthiest life, no matter which state you call home. Nevertheless, it's always easier to achieve your goals when you have support—so if you're considering a move, it could be worth choosing a more wellness-oriented state where healthy activities abound and where wellness programs have state-level support.

Wellness activities are increasing in states across the country, but some places are further along than others. If there are not yet dozens of yoga studios in your hometown, things may change in the very near future. If you are in for a healthy lifestyle, check out these five wellness tips from Michael A. Smith, MD, the Director of Education at Life Extension


To determine which are the best and worst states for wellness we analyzed 11 metrics across three main wellness categories in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

  1. Physical and Mental Health

    : Analyzed mental health, general health, exercise and sleep using the most recent data from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System through 2020.
  2. Access to National Parks and Nature

    : The percentage of each state covered by national parks using the most recent data from the National Park Service through 2021 and the U.S. Census Bureau.
  3. Interest in Integrative Health Practices

    : Analyzed Google Trends data to see where Americans conducted the most Google searches for the following six terms over the past year: meditation, yoga, mindfulness, healthy diet, vitamins, and supplements—terms that reflect an interest in complementary approaches to traditional medicine. This data was collected in June 2022 and changes daily.

Original data sources are linked throughout the study where applicable.

Scoring System: We scored points for each state in 11 statistical categories by measuring how much better (or worse) the state did compared to the national average in each category.

Points in the three main categories were then added together. The higher the score, the higher the ranking.

For example, California ranked No. 1 by scoring 1.09 points in the physical/mental health category, 1 point in the parks category, and 1.15 points in the Google trends category, for 3.16 points overall.

About the Author: Dr. Michael A. Smith received his medical doctorate from the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, and he practiced Internal Medicine and Radiology in Dallas, Texas in the early 2000s. Dr. Smith is the author of The Supplement Pyramid: How to Build your Personalized Nutritional Regimen. He is also the host of the Live Foreverish podcast and Facebook Live show for Life Extension.