We're happy, and we know it.

Lancaster County took the top spot in a national poll that measured residents' satisfaction with their life, health, work and community.

Local residents had the highest rate of satisfaction in the nation in 2011, according to the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index, beating out cities like Honolulu, San Francisco, Boston and Boulder.

The news spread like wildfire overnight, with local residents posting and sharing the results on Facebook and other social media sites.

Many people were not surprised by the results, noting the county has a reasonable cost of living, quality schools, solid values and the experience of all four seasons.

Like farmland? Drive down rural roads near Intercourse, one woman said. Like city living? Check out Lancaster's historic buildings.

We have the Barnstormers for baseball fans and First Friday for art aficionados, residents said.

"We're rich," said Gordie Mummaw, 67, of Penn Township, defining the quality this way: "We've got a roof over our heads; we've got food to eat; we've got a car to drive."

Andrea Kratzert, 48, of Manheim Township, said, "I have lived here all of my life, and I have no desire to move elsewhere."

In fact, Kratzert said, she likes her neighborhood, Bloomingdale, so much that when her family decided to move, they relocated six blocks away.

Donald English, 51, of Manheim Township, raised his family here. English, born and raised in Akron, Ohio, said he has noticed people come here from elsewhere and stay.

"It's a nice place to live," he said, but added with a laugh, "If I had my choice of where to live - here or Honolulu - I'd choose Honolulu."

Lancaster County has steadily moved up in the ranks since the poll began in 2008. It was 27th that year, 19th the following year and 15th in 2010.

Local residents' satisfaction with their work environment pushed Lancaster County to the top this year, with a marked improvement in that category, said Reggie Ramsey, manager of market analytics for Healthways, a wellness company involved in the poll.

The county's satisfaction rate bested areas both large and small, and greatly outdistanced other Pennsylvania cities.

The next highest Pennsylvania city in the composite ratings was Harrisburg/Carlisle, at 49th. Reading ranked 56th, Pittsburgh, 115th and York/Hanover, 120th. Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington was 130th.

At the bottom of the list was Huntington/Ashland in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

In the state rankings, Pennsylvania was a rather tepid 31st. (Hawaii was first and West Virginia was last.) However, the county's U.S. Congressional District, the 16th, ranked seventh in the nation.

That district, represented by U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, includes all of Lancaster County and parts of Chester and Berks counties.

The survey ranked 190 cities across the country and is based on U.S. Census Bureau Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The Lancaster MSA includes the entire county. Pollsters spoke by telephone to 781 residents here in compiling the results.

So what makes local residents so satisfied with life here?

It's a collective thing, residents said, noting that their neighbors and those around them seem happy, too.

People are friendly and helpful to each other, they said.

Nancy Mummaw, 80, of Landisville, said, "You don't get as many wrinkles if you smile."

Location is another reason for our collective happiness, residents said. While we have a good-sized city right here in the county, if you want to go to a big city, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are only several hours away.

And while it's nice to visit other places, it's better to come home, some said.

Nancy Smith, 73, of Landisville, recently returned from visiting her son in Colorado.

"It's cold and snowy, and the altitude - it's terrible!" she said, noting she was very happy to come home.

Even young people who go away to college are glad to come back home to live.

Lindsey Doutt, 23, of Willow Street, recently graduated from Ursinus College and returned to Lancaster County to work with children who have autism.

"It's quaint, it's small, it's family-oriented," she said, listing her reasons for returning here.

The survey measured six areas of well-being: life, emotions, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and access to services.

The poll asked people about their daily experiences, including if they smiled or did something interesting, as well as if they felt worried or stressed.

They also were asked about their energy level, whether they felt well-rested and if they suffered from colds, the flu or headaches.

Are you satisfied with your job? the poll asked. Is there an open and trusting work environment there?

And people were asked whether they can afford food, shelter and health care here, whether there is clean water, and whether they feel safe walking alone at night.

Millie Brubaker, 75, of Landisville, gives Lancaster County a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Said Barbara Heim, 72, of Columbia, "It's just a nice place to live."


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