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10 Best and Worst States to Live In if You Want to Be Happy
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?
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:
3. North Dakota
7. South Dakota
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
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!
- Every State is Best at Something: Whats Your State Known For?
Here are the results of another study showing what each of the 50 states is known for being the best at! Every state offers some reason to be happy.
- Hawaii Snags Happiest State Title | Gallup Well-Being Index & Happiest States | Happiness Factor
This is the report about the study that I used as a resource to write this article. It also provides additional information other than what I've included here and links to related topics about the study and about state happiness.