"Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity" according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™ focuses on this definition to measure well-being -- or happiness -- in surveys of 1,000 Americans every day. FEMA concerns Where is your state of happiness? What is your state of happiness? because of recent disasters like Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike.
The Well-Being of 50 U.S. States presents a list based on interviews with over 350,000 individuals during January 2 to December 30, 2008. Washington, D.C. appears in the subject surveys as a MD congressional district. Being the sixth in the list means DC people were found along with others in MD to be among the happiest in 2008. On the other hand, People, Planet&Profit - Location Matters shows ten FEMA regions under four new groups. Colors from black to 'bright' run through dark and light grey in decreasing severity. During 1970-2004, average mortality was highest (black) in the Mountain states, followed by the Southern and Midwest states, then the Northwest, mid Atlantic, Northeast, and Southwest states, and California. However, it appears that neither Alaska nor Hawaii or the U.S. territories, GUAM, PR, VI, CNMI, RMI, FSM, and American Samoa might be present in the study. MD falls under light grey as part of Region III.
Using the data from The Well-Being of 50 U.S. States I evaluated again the FEMA regions without Alaska (Region X) and Hawaii (Region IX). The new results are listed below in the order of decreasing happiness.  

Black: (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY)

Bright: (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT) plus (NJ, NY, PR*, VI*) plus (AZ, CA, GUAM*, HI*, NV, CNMI*, RMI*, FSM*, American Samoa*)

Light Grey: (DC*, DE, MD, PA, VA, WV) plus (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI) plus (IA, KS, MO, NE) plus (AK*, ID, OR, WA)

Dark Grey: (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN) plus (AR, LA, NM, OK, TX)

 *where DC is included -- as a congressional district in MD -- while AK, HI, and the U.S. territories, GUAM, PR, VI, CNMI, RMI, FSM, and American Samoa, are not.

In conclusion, whether AK and HI are included in the analysis or not, the order of happiness is unchanged for black and bright states. The highest natural hazard mortality states of the period from 1970 to 2004 have the highest well-being in 2008. However, dark grey became the new lowest in the present analysis. Moreover, a difference of 3.3% -- instead of 1.9% when AK and HI were included -- results between the top and bottom happiness groups. Hence, grouping makes a difference in analysis as it should when disasters like hurricanes strike only in some of the states and some of the time. Also, we would expect the FEMA regions that were hit by the  hurricanes of 2005 and 2008 to have the lowest well-being in 2008 when compared with the unaffected regions. MD (together with DC) is no longer in the lowest well-being group when AK and HI are excluded in the analysis. 

Concerning accuracy, the survey site cites for results based on the total sample of national adults, "95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point." Although each color in the present order differs by about 1%, the top-to-bottom difference amounts to over three times that. Thus, if the black group is the highest, the dark grey is expectedly the lowest in terms of happiness.

My analysis convinces me that WHO's health definition -- thus the well-being index -- is a useful measure for FEMA purposes. Resource planning and allocation should take into account the well-being of the people in future disasters. Finally, I am concerned about the 'excluded' such as American Samoa (Region IX) that was hit by earthquake, tsunami, and flooding on September 29, 2009. Governor Togiola Tulafono spoke on November 2, 2009 about the immediate issues of the territory, including "the volumes of debris, both terrestrial and marine, that the tsunami left in its wake. There is a high likelihood that when storm waves hit our shores they will wash the shoreline debris onto the reefs, and heavy rains will wash debris from the streams onto the reefs. The debris poses a threat to public safety and damages to the coral reefs can significantly affect commercial and subsistence fishing that is vital to the economic and social well being of American Samoa. If immediate action is not taken, this debris will continue to impact our coastline, overburden our current capacity, and may create additional health problems for our local community."

Top: Ofu seen from Olosega on October 27, 2005.
Bottom: Ofu-Olosega on October 29, 2005.
Credit: Wikipedia