Beach cities residents are becoming increasingly healthier according to a new study released Wednesday during the Beach Cities Health District board meeting.
Among other things, the Gallup study found that beach cities residents have shown an overall well being increase since 2010 and are now smoking less, working out more and eating healthier than they were two years ago.
The new found improvements are being touted as an indication that the Blue Zones Project – a community health initiative launched in 2010 – is gaining momentum in its goal to make the beach cities a healthier and happier place to live, work and play.
“The positive well-being trend in the Beach Cities is both authentic and impressive," said Dan Witters, a principal at Gallup. "The rate at which the community has improved since 2010 far surpasses what has been measured in the large majority of other communities nationwide... Given the timing of this progress, we believe the Blue Zones Project has been a strong driver of the Beach Cities' success.”
The study surveyed 1,200 residents that represented the overall population of the three beach cities and found that since 2010:
- Well-Being Index: The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which measures physical, emotional and social health rose by three points in the beach cities to a score of 76.4.
- Obesity: There was a 14 percent reduction in obesity which equates to 1,645 fewer adults being obese.
- Smoking: Smoking rates dropped 30 percent with only 7 percent of the Beach Cities population reported as smokers.
- Exercise: The study showed a 10 percent increase in the number of residents who reported working out for at least 30 minutes per day, three times per week.
- Diet: 10 percent more residents reported healthier eating habits since 2010.
The reduction in obesity rates alone represent $2.35 million in related healthcare costs for the beach cities, Gallup said in a release.
According to the Beach Cities Health District, these improved numbers also equate to a "statistically significant percent decrease in the likelihood of hospital admission, ER visits and decrease in the likelihood of incurring healthcare costs."
Since the Blue Zones project began in Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo Beach, organizers said they have been successful in influencing city governments, restaurants, schools and businesses to adopt healthier practices.
During the first two years of the project, local governments have adopted bicycle master plans, smoking restrictions and livability policies and more than 60 restaurants have achieved or are working towards Blue Zones Restaurant certification while promoting healthier menu options. In addition, an estimated 15,000 beach cities residents participated in one or more of the Blue Zones Project's initiatives, the study found.
While Witters said there was not direct causal relationship established between the Blue Zones Project and the increase in well being, he emphasized the fact that such an increase is both meaningful and rare.
"That the Beach Cities have realized such impressive improvement speaks very highly of the well being project that they embrace: namely the partnership with Blue Zones and Healthways," Witters said in an email to Patch. "It is very reasonable, therefore, to conclude that a significant factor in the well being improvements realized by the Beach Cities have occurred as a function of this partnership."
While many indications of well being are increasing, Witters said the beach cities still have a big area to improve upon – stress.
According to the study, residents in the beach cities surpass the average stress level of an American adult. About 47 percent of beach cities adults reported carrying significant stress on any given day compared to the national average of 40 percent.
As the project continues though, officials hope to reduce this number and continue to see increases in the well being index of local residents.
"We fought hard to bring the Blue Zones Project to the Beach Cities because we believed this preventative, community-based model would advance our ability to appreciably improve the lives of the residents we serve,” Beach Cities CEO Susan Burden said in a release following Wednesday's meeting. "We are thrilled to see our community transforming in such a sustainable way and look forward to working with our residents to continue the positive momentum.”