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10 Best and Worst States to Live In if You Want to Be Happy

Updated on March 7, 2011

A new report has been released that measures the average amount of happiness that people experience and then ranks the fifty states based on how happy people living there are. (The link to the report is in the links at the end of this article.) Of course, happiness is hard to measure. It’s also a very personal thing so you may live in a happy state but have personal experiences that make it impossible for you to be happy. For that reason, the results of the study need to be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, the findings of such a study are interesting, aren’t they?

Measuring Happiness

The study is the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The 2010 version of the study used a phone interview with more than 350,000 randomly selected people throughout the year to gauge happiness across all fifty states as well as in Washington D.C. The survey was designed so that it addressed six key areas of wellbeing to help determine happiness. Those six factors were:

1.     Access to the basics. Anyone who has ever studied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs knows that it’s impossible to reach greater levels of life satisfaction if you don’t have the basics met. The survey looked at factors like access to health care, access to a safe place for walking and other exercise and a general feeling of satisfaction with the community where the individual was living).

2.     Personal feelings about the quality of the individual’s life. The person was asked about their feelings on life at the present time as well as their predictions for how they would feel about their lives in five years time.

3.     Emotional health. Obviously one of the things here would be depression since depression is basically the opposite of happiness.

4.     Physical health. Arguably it is difficult to be happy if you are physically unhealthy. Of course many other factors have to be taken into consideration (and clearly were in the course of this study) but physical health does play a role in total wellbeing and happiness.

5.     Healthy behavior. Someone may have poor physical and emotional health but if they are actively engaging in healthy behavior to improve their situation then they may be happier than someone in this same situation who chooses not to engage in healthy behavior.

6.     Work environment. Most people spend a large percentage of their time at work so obviously if they are unhappy there then they will find it difficult to be happy in life. The survey considered this by asking about such issues as job satisfaction.

The Most Important Indicators of Happiness

The results of the study found that three of the above six factors were most important when it came to determining the happiness of people living in a specific state. The personal feelings about the quality of life, the person’s emotional health and the person’s physical health were all of utmost importance. The state that ranked as the happiest in the nation (Hawaii) had high scores in all three categories; the state that ranked least happy (West Virginia) had low scores in all three categories.

This is important information for any individual who is interested in improving his or her levels of happiness. It suggests that you need to do all that you can to improve your physical and emotional health while also working on your attitude towards your situation in life. Someone who is feeling particularly unhappy might want to see both a doctor and a psychologist to start working on these three areas of life with an intention of improving happiness levels.

The 10 Happiest States

According to the results of the survey, the happiest ten states (actually eleven since there was a tie) are:

1.     Hawaii

2.     Wyoming

3.     North Dakota

4.     Alaska

5.     Colorado

6.     Minnesota

7.     South Dakota

8.     Utah

9.     Connecticut

10. Nebraska

11. Massachusetts

Nebraska and Massachusetts were tied for tenth place in this survey.

The 10 Least Happy States

According to the results of the survey, the least happy ten states in 2010 were:

1.     West Virginia

2.     Kentucky

3.     Mississippi

4.     Arkansas

5.     Alabama

6.     Ohio

7.     Delaware

8.     Nevada

9.     Louisiana

10. Michigan

Regional Results

You may have noticed from the list of the happiest states in the nation that five of the states are located in the Western region of the United States. This region seems to be the happiest according to this study. In contrast, the Southern states seem to be the least happy.

The Scores Were Close

It is also worth noting that the happiness levels for all of the states were actually really close together. The evaluation was based on a total possible score of 100 points. Hawaii, the happiest state in the nation, only scored a 71. Objectively it seems like a rather low number for the happiest state, doesn’t it? The top ten happy states ranged between 67.8 and 71, all very close together. The bottom ten states weren’t really all that far behind; they were between 61.7 and 64.6 points. That means there’s barely a 3 point difference between the happiest of the unhappy states and the unhappiest of the happy states with all 30 other states existing in that 3 point range.

How Happy Are You?

What do you think about this state-based information trying to gauge happiness? Do you feel like your level of happiness is similar to that of other people in your state? Do you think the survey’s results are in line with how you feel about your own happiness? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Submit a Comment

  • ptosis profile image


    6 years ago from Arizona

    Lived in 7 states and Hawaii is the WORST. Don't believe everything you read in magazines. It's horrible in Honolulu as in 'third world, meth capital of the world' bad.

    Loved Boulder CO, but not Denver, (cough-gag).

  • Levertis Steele profile image

    Levertis Steele 

    6 years ago from Southern Clime

    This is an interesting hub, and I had fun reading it. I live in the South, and my state, Mississippi, is ranked among the unhappiest! BUT, BOO to the 13th power! Here in the magnolia state we fuss, love, hate, play racists, and all of the other stuff you ALL do, but you should have seen us after Katrina! We were acting RIGHT for a while there! I love Mississippi, and I do not mind the state flag that has been an object of controversy. It has never done anything to me. I would rather watch my back for evil people. Flags do exactly what you want them to do--wave and behave!

    I am Black and know that happiness is a state of mind, although environment plays a part. I was in control of choices in my life, and I made them. I learned how to find peace in the middle of a storm (life storms and real ones). I found peace in the middle of Katrina!

    I do not like this method of determining happy states. If I would move to one of the "Happy" states, my life would be as good as I make it. I deal with ups and downs, but I am mostly happy. I chose to reside in Mississippi, and I am not complaining. Maybe the physical state is not happy, but I am. Y'all come see us now, and "Look around Mississippi!" :D

  • smithed profile image


    6 years ago

    As a South Dakotan, I can verify that we are a pretty happy bunch up here in our fly over state.

  • Golfgal profile image


    6 years ago from McKinney, Texas

    I think with the right attitude and personal standards, you can be happy anywhere you decide to call home.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    New Mexico should be in top 10. So pretty there. Santa Fe and Taos are so beautiful. The rest of the state is amazing too. Cobalt blue skies!

    Florida should be in the bottom 10. So overrated. Violent, hot, dirty (bugs everywhere), crowded. No wonder real estate values are zero there. I lived there and was really miserable.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    What about Texas!It's so peaceful there

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Don't even come to Mississippi!Terrible!Racists

  • bgamall profile image

    Gary Anderson 

    6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

    I have been to Utah. I think compared to Nevada it is overrated. I like Park City, but then Nevada has Lake Tahoe, which is even better!

    And where do you think Utah folks spend their time? In Nevada, gambling! Why do you think Wendover thrives? And look at the traffic to Las Vegas down I 15!

  • thisismylife9123 profile image

    Cheyenne Barroga 

    6 years ago from Salt lake city, UT

    Woot, I live in Hawaii, it is pretty happy up here ^_^

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    We are happy in Wv uou know nuthin

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I think fl. Is up there As being a horrible place to live like polk co. dirty place all around. Should show real postcard pic. Instead ofthe ones that show a beautiful fl.keep it real fl.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    What about Texas? I live in Texas, and I'm the happiest man alive.

  • profile image

    gabriel jeter 

    6 years ago

    I live in Alabama and it sucks! Shocker...I know. Besides the ignorant rednecks, lack of pro sport teams, horrific summers, and stupid laws just to name a few..everyone here is fat. I'm in college here and atleast three to four people in all of my classes are not just fat, that would be 3/4 of the class, but extremely fat. If you are not raising a family..dont move here! Nothing for single adults to do here.

  • gajanis786 profile image


    7 years ago

    Interesting poll and results.....however, still I believe definition of real happiness and a happy life is different with different people which is influenced by many other factors mentioned in the poll.....that means this list of best and worst places may also differ with different people and it cannot be considered constant lists.Thanks.

  • Golfgal profile image


    7 years ago from McKinney, Texas

    My family just moved here from Western Maryland. We were not surprised about WV. There seems to be a glass helf empty mentality in that state. We were very surprised not to see our State of Texas in the top ten. Thanks for the hub. It is well written and interesting.

  • crystolite profile image


    7 years ago from Houston TX

    Good article that really exposed the tips for measuring happiness,thanks for this interesting hub.

  • BlissfulWriter profile image


    7 years ago

    That makes sense because I remember an 2009 Gallup poll that said that Hawaii was among the top 10 states that was least stressed. And West Virgina was among the top 10 states that was most stressed.

    So stress is inversely correlated with happiness.

    And that is why people go to Hawaii for vacation.

  • IslandVoice profile image

    Sylvia Van Velzer 

    7 years ago from Hawaii

    Awesome! I live in Hawaii, and i can tell you, i am happy! This report does not surprise me at all. It just affirms the state of things. At least, as far as where we come from.

  • bgamall profile image

    Gary Anderson 

    7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

    Minnesota is a favorite state to live? I just talked to a girl who hated the winters and was happy to be in Reno, but would rather even be in Las Vegas.

    So, it amuses me when people vote up a state that has brutal winters.

  • Granny's House profile image

    Granny's House 

    7 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

    Great hub. Nicely done. I lived in Alaska and the mosquitoes are BAD!! Hawaii would be nice.

  • graceomalley profile image


    7 years ago

    I read an interesting book called "The Happiness Project" recently. The author spent a year working on ways to increase her personal happiness. At least for some - happiness can be increased! If all else fails, move to Hawaii :)

  • mviadam profile image


    7 years ago

    Happy is such a relative term, but I appreciate your approach to it. I'd love to live in Hawaii

  • ocbill profile image


    7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

    Interesting that most states are Northern and midwest. Massachusetts & Colorado were the only ones with a major metro. People overall felt comfortable in cold-weather states yet population seems to be surging south. It makes you think

  • lbidd54 profile image


    7 years ago from The beautiful Jersey Shore

    Very interesting hub.....Thanks

  • simeonvisser profile image


    7 years ago

    On a scale of 0 - 100 and all states at most 10 apart, I don't think the research is distinguishing enough to say that one state strictly ranks higher than the other. Sure, the ones at the bottom will be worse than the ones at the top but ranking those type of states (the best or the worst) could easily have been different.

  • ChristopherMorgan profile image


    7 years ago


    I live in Nevada.

    I wish I lived somewhere like Alaska.

    Great Hub!

    I followed!

  • Pamela N Red profile image

    Pamela N Red 

    7 years ago from Oklahoma

    I'm surprised to see Alaska in the top ten. I couldn't be happy living there.


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