On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your sense of well-being, living in the San Diego area?
If you're like those polled for a Gallup-Healthways index, you're probably a 7 or 8.
In a survey of 350,000 people in 162 population centers nationwide in 2009, San Diegans' responses prompted an overall ranking of 42. The study ranked the municipalities in a variety of ways. San Diego's highest showing was 15th, in physical health. It's lowest was 98th, in "basic access" to necessities, health insurance and public safety.
What's wrong with this picture?
"Maybe it's the cost of living and how hard people need to work just to make ends meet," suggested Point Loma resident Sara Chovanec as she took a break from her jump-rope workout in Balboa Park on a sunny President's Day.
Said North Park resident Alison Peppers, sunbathing on a towel at Mission Beach: "It's because of the budget crisis. People are really feeling the pinch -- and the lack of services available."
"A lot of things are hard," added Loma Portal resident Dave Adams, midway through a long stroll on the Mission Beach boardwalk. "But those who try will get ahead."
There seemed to be little dispute about the well-being rankings of Boulder, Colo., with first-place showings in the "life evaluation" and "work environment" categories. It was the first-place rankings of Holland-Grand Haven, Mich., however, in "physical health" and "basic access" that prompted the most disbelief among San Diegans.
"I didn't know people lived in Holland, Mich.," Adams declared, only half-kidding. "I thought it was a wasteland."
While San Diego can hardly claim -- as it did for decades -- to be America's Finest City any longer, its attributes would seem to add up to a higher overall well-being ranking in the minds of its residents.
"Boulder? It's OK. It's nice," said Hillcrest resident Richard Nicholson as he walked Gracie, his "Frenchie," on a leash, headed for the off-leash dog park at Nate's Point in Balboa Park. "I thought Fort Collins [Colorado] was nicer."
Michael Buono, a Allied Garden resident, actually suggested that San Diegans poor-mouthed their city to hold back the tide of people who might otherwise be inclined to move here.
"I tell 'em, 'Don't come, because we're not doing that well,' " Buono said with a chuckle. " 'We're really unhealthy. It's a terrible place to live.' "
Among the Top 10 in the Well-Being Index were four California regions: Santa Rose-Petaluma, Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara ranked 5th, 6th and 7th. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura was 10th.
Elsewhere, San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont was 20th, and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana ranked a distant 71st.