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City to Reveal If 'Wellbeing' of Santa Monica’s Populace Has Improved

 
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

September 12, 2017 -- Is Santa Monica a happier, or at least more contented, community than it was two years ago?

The City is scheduled to address the issue tonight, and in more detail Wednesday, in an update of a 2015 ground-breaking project that sought to gauge the level of wellbeing among its nearly 94,000 residents as a way of improving services.

Santa Monica marked a first when it started delving into such questions as part of its “Wellbeing Project.”

The idea was to “harness the power of data to provide a shared understanding of our community's strengths and needs, encouraging collaboration among city leaders, local organizations, and residents to improve our collective wellbeing,” the project’s website says.

It turned out that real life was far from a day at the beach for the populace.

Mid-lifers were the least pleased, the first Wellbeing Index found.

Others were not exactly all smiles, either. Only about half of Santa Monicans felt they had people around them they could rely on. Many felt they had little influence on local decision making. One in five young people felt lonely most or all the time.

City Manager Rick Cole and the Office of Civic Wellbeing will outline the update tonight at the City Council’s meeting.

The report is then being publicly released Wednesday, said Constance Farrell, a City spokesperson.

The Wellbeing Project started as the City’s award-winning entry in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ first-ever Mayors Challenge, a competition regarding innovation in local government.

Santa Monica received $1 million to develop its first Wellbeing Index, which was produced by the Santa Monica-based RAND Corp and the New Economics Foundation, based in the U.K.

In its initial findings, senior citizens showed the highest level of personal wellbeing. Those between the ages of 45 and 54 showed the lowest levels.

Overall, only about half of those surveyed felt they could count on their neighbors -- well below the national average of 80 percent.

Worrying about paying the mortgage and other finances was reported, particularly surprising in such a generally well-heeled community.

Nor were Santa Monicans as healthy as we may have expected.

The original findings revealed a surprising lack of healthy activity and eating by residents -- despite year-around weather conducive to outdoor activities, and the accessibility of weekly farmers markets.

Almost one-third (28%) of respondents report experiencing stress some or all of the time.

 


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