Hawaii’s tropical island paradise isn’t the fountain of youth, but it’s close. Hawaii locals not only live longer -- they’re less stressed and happier than residents of any other state.

Just how much longer are Hawaii residents living? A 65-year-old in Hawaii will live another 16.2 years on average, as compared to another 10.6 years in Mississippi, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in addition to living longer lives, citizens of the Aloha State are getting happier as time goes on. For the past four years, Hawaii has taken the top spot in Gallup-Healthways' statewide well-being poll.

So what are the Aloha State’s secrets to happiness and longevity?

Hawaiian Time

hawaii hammock

The slowed-down, low-stress island lifestyle gives Hawaiians a major health advantage. Less than one-third of Hawaiian residents say they're stressed out on any given day, making them the least-stressed state population in the country.

What does that slowed-down life look like? “It's what we call 'Hawaiian time and Hawaiian style,'" Rochelle Ballard, a Kauai surfer and founder of Surf Into Yoga retreats, tells the Huffington Post. "It's just enjoying time with friends and family stopping by, and taking that time to laugh and tell a story, even if you have a busy day. I think the reason we have that healthier, longer life in the islands is because of that laid-back lifestyle."

Sunshine and Fresh Air

huffpost hawaii

Hawaii has pristine beaches, lush tropical greenery, and average temperatures in the 70s in Honolulu, so locals soak up plenty of sun -– and health benefits –- by spending so much of their lives outside.

"You get vitamin D from the sun when you're out, and it's easier to be physically active here -- you're not dealing with two feet of snow for a good chunk of the year," says Dr. Bradley Willcox, a longevity expert and professor in the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii.

Fresh Food and Exercise

tropical fruit

"People tend to eat better here and exercise more,” says Willcox. More than 60 percent of Hawaiians exercise – second only to Alaska. And the Hawaiian diet, which is heavy on fresh fish, legumes, vegetables and fruits, also helps protect the body against diseases. "In Hawaii, you tend to have an east-west blend of eating habits," says Willcox, who adds that the Hawaiian diet has many of the benefits of the Japanese diet, in addition to being lower in salt.

Looking on the Bright Side


The optimism that is central to the Aloha spirit has proven health benefits. Hawaii residents are optimistic that their cities are getting better, according to Gallup data.

A growing body of research is linking happiness with good health and longevity. People with a positive life outlook may enjoy better sleep quality, and Harvard researchers have found that happiness may boost immune system functioning and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Exemplary Health Care


Not all states are created equal when it comes to health and happiness, and Hawaii sets a high bar for the rest of the country. Hawaii's exemplary health care system mandates that employers provide care for any employees who work more than 20 hours a week. As a result, says Willcox, “people get good health care here.”

Strong Communities

family beach

Hawaii residents are particularly good at prioritizing spending time with family and friends –- activities that affect stress levels, well-being and longevity. The community spirit has a way of rubbing off on individuals, creating a uniquely Hawaiian perspective on life. “You see more stress-resistant personalities,” says Willcox. "Every weekend, everyone's out on the beach for a cookout with family members all around.”

Like people in any state, people in Hawaii have to deal with the reality of work and financial obligations. But the true secret to the Hawaiian lifestyle may be something that can’t be measured in any poll or study: perspective. Hawaiians are experts at living lives that are more about personal relationships and rich experiences and “less about money,” according to Ballard: "Even though people have to work, they make more time for things that have value to them -- that's family time. Whatever island you live on, it's a joyful experience to live the Hawaiian lifestyle."

Clarification: Language in this post has been updated throughout to reflect that its subject is not just Native Hawaiians, but residents of Hawaii more broadly.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Mexico

    Puerto Vallarta on the west coast and Tulum on the Yucatan peninsula to the east lure retirees to Mexico with beautiful scenery, affordable living costs, and a pleasantly slow pace of life. Because of its natural beauty, active expat communities and low real-estate prices -- not to mention convenient proximity to the U.S. -- <a href="http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/livable-communities/info-07-2010/best-places-retire-abroad-mexico-puerto-vallarta.html" target="_blank">AARP calls Mexico</a> "The undisputed number-one destination for American retirees."

  • Panama

    Once a well-kept secret among expats, Panama City has quickly become a haven for American retirees. According to International Living, Panama has some of the best perks for retirees of any foreign country. With the <a href="http://internationalliving.com/countries/panama/retire/" target="_blank">"pensionado” (retiree) program</a>, older expats can enjoy a significant number of discounts and perks, including a 30 percent discount on public transport and 15 percent off healthcare services in hospitals and private clinics. And it's easy to live comfortably in vibrant Panama City for $1,500-2,000 per month, <a href="http://internationalliving.com/countries/panama/retire/" target="_blank">International Living says</a>.

  • Honduras

    Just a short flight from the U.S., Honduras is a haven of quiet, tranquility and natural beauty for retirees. <a href="http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-worlds-top-10-retirement-havens-2012-01-19#" target="_blank">MarketWatch recommends finding a place on the island of Roatan</a>, where you can enjoy white-sand beaches, snorkeling, boating and surfing. And with the low cost of living, you'll be able to enjoy more for your money. Retiree Sara J. Laing <a href="http://www.escapefromamerica.com/2011/03/retiring-in-honduras-the-upside-and-downside/" target="_blank">writes in Escape from America magazine</a> that she was able to hire a full-time handyman/gardener/driver as well as a full-time housekeeper and cook for less than $500 per month, whereas the same services would cost around $5,000 in the U.S.

  • Costa Rica

    If you want to retire in peace, surrounded by beaches, jungles and sunshine, Costa Rica -- one of the top retirement destinations in the world -- might be the place for you. And living costs in the stunningly beautiful Central American country are extremely low, Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzan-haskins-and-dan-prescher/best-places-to-retire-why-costa-rica-remains_b_2583079.html" target="_blank">note in a Huff/Post50 blog</a>. "But it's not just the potential cost savings that you should consider," they write. "It's the overall improvement in your quality of life. Better weather. Beautiful scenery. Healthcare that's not only high quality, but affordable. Less stress."

  • Belize

    Belize has become popular in the last decade as not only a hub of eco-tourism, but also an affordable retirement destination. The national language is English, making it easier for American residents to navigate, and the cost of living is low. Plus, residents can receive tax exemptions for all income earned outside Belize through the Qualified Retired Persons (QRP) Program. But the best part? The stunning tropical landscapes. Your cares will melt away after just a few weeks of walking through wildlife reserves and lounging on local beaches.

  • Nicaragua

    The cost of living in tropical Nicaragua is even lower than other Central American countries like Mexico and Panama, making it an up-and-coming retirement hot spot. The historic small city of Granada offers lots of culture and a large expat community, in addition to proximity to relaxing outdoor spaces that you can enjoy in the year-round warm weather.