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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Bakken column: Oil wells and well-being

  • The state of well-being in North Dakota has dramatically declined.
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  • The state of well-being in North Dakota has dramatically declined.
    Apparently, you can blame it on beer.
    The most recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranked North Dakota as the 19th happiest state, based on interviews with residents. A year earlier, the Roughrider State was rated second, behind only Hawaii.
    How might such a dramatic drop in one year be explained? Read on.
    Firstly, you figured correctly that, when it comes to happy, Hawaii is No. 1. It has been for five of the last six years of the study.
    Hawaii is the land of sun, beaches, fruity drinks and great scenery ranging from volcanoes to grass skirts. Those factors and the state’s temperate, mellow climate make Hawaii the kind of slam dunk you’d expect if Shaquille O’Neal was being guarded by Pee Wee Herman.
    But lots of heads snapped when North Dakota was ranked second, ahead of the likes of Colorado and its Rocky Mountain highs.
    Pollsters gave most of the credit for North Dakota’s happiness spike to the state’s low unemployment rate. That’s mainly because of all the high-paying jobs in the Oil Patch, in case you’ve been asleep the last few years.
    Good and bad
    Such fame was fleeting, however. The latest results — when North Dakotans were queried in 2012 — shows a rapid descent on the happiness meter.
    There’s further proof of disgruntlement in the revealing of another ranking. It came from the Beer Institute, which tabbed North Dakota as the No. 1 beer-drinking state in the nation.
    Obviously, we’re trying to drown our sorrows over our declining mood.
    Our rectangular slice of heaven received that No. 1 beer-drinking designation because the 21-and-older crowd had a yearly per-capita beer consumption of 45.8 gallons.
    Allow me to do the math. Those 45.8 gallons translate to 489 12-ounce beers per person per year. That roughly translates to one beer per weekday and two beers per weekend day per person.
    Because there are teetotalers, others obviously average more beer consumption. It’s safe to conclude that oilfield workers might fall into that category.
    That’s the way it goes these days. North Dakota has experienced dramatic cultural change, some of it good and some of it bad.
    Seemingly all of it is attributed to oil. For instance:
    Wages are up? Credit oil.
    Traffic accidents are up? Blame oil.
    Property taxes are down. Credit oil.
    Crime rate has climbed? Blame oil.
    Population is up? Credit oil.
    Housing costs are up? Blame oil.
    It seems odd that most of the state’s population still resides in the east, but most of the impact — good and bad — comes from a still-sparsely populated west.
    Page 2 of 2 - Minnesotans haven’t experienced the same roller coaster ride. It has been the third-happiest state in the union for two straight years.
    So, for North Dakota residents, the remedy is clear. To be happier, move to Minnesota.

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