Oklahoma residents enjoy the 17th best quality of life in the nation according to an article published by USNews.com.
The study considered both environmental and social health when determining quality of life rankings. Oklahoma ranked in the bottom half of states in environmental health, but second in community engagement and ninth in social health overall.
“In addition to a healthy environment, a person’s quality of life is largely a result of their interactions with those around them,” the article said. “Studies show that when people feel socially supported, they experience greater happiness, as well as physical and mental health.”
Sophomore Cameron Williams said he and his family moved from Moreno Valley, CA to the rural town of Fairfax, OK following his senior year of high school. He said he was initially surprised by the friendliness of the locals, and later learned to appreciate living in a smaller community.
“I drove along main street for the first time and saw people waving at each other, and I was like, ‘What the heck?’” Williams said. “Now, I’m used to it and wave back. You go to the gas station and say hi to everybody, and everybody knows each other, so whenever something goes wrong, we all come together to help.”
According to Williams, Oklahoma Christian University’s campus is a similar, close-knit community. He said the culture of the university and Edmond, OK has made it easy for him to fit in.
“We’re all pretty close to each other on OC’s campus, and I really like that,” Williams said. “If I would have gone to a bigger school in California with like 60,000 students, that same sense of community would probably have never happened.”
In addition to stronger community engagement, Williams said factors such as lower living expenses and population density have caused his family to enjoy living in Oklahoma over California. USNews.com ranked California last among all 50 states in their quality of life rankings.
“The cost of living is way better, just paying for gas and food and whatnot,” Williams said. “The people are also nicer, and there is no traffic whatsoever. You guys don’t even know what traffic is.”
A 2017 study by GOBankingrates.com found Oklahoma has the fifth lowest cost of living in the U.S., with housing and grocery costs 23.3 and 7 percent lower than the national average, respectively. Last month, a CNBC article ranked Oklahoma City as the best city in the U.S. for high-paying jobs with a low cost of living.
Although ranking 14th in urban air quality, Oklahoma ranked45th in drinking water quality. According to the advocacy group Clean Water Action, pollution from fracking practices may be to blame for poor water quality in the state.
“New research shows that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) may have permitted oil and gas wells to inject into potential underground sources of drinking water that are supposed to be protected by federal law and off limits to fossil fuel activities,” Joel Noel of the Clean Water Commission said in a public statement.
Williams said possible poor water quality and intermittent pollution from the Purina dog food plant in Edmond have not bothered him since arriving at Oklahoma Christian.
“In Los Angeles, there is smog everywhere—you can’t even see a blue sky,” Williams said. “It’s hard to breathe sometimes just because of all the industrial stuff going on. Out here, the air quality is way better.”