The 5 happiest (and saddest) states in America

A comprehensive new report measures residents' financial security, mental health, job satisfaction and more


Janet Allon
September 24, 2014 2:30PM (UTC)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet Feeling unhappy? Perhaps a move to Utah is the ticket. It's the happiest state in the country according to a  new report by Wallethub.com.

The nature of happiness may be a topic of hot, unending debate, but Wallethub has come up with a happiness metric that takes into account financial security, mental and physical health, job satisfaction, and feelings towards one's environment, social life and community. The result: A state by state ranking of 50 states plus the District of Columbia in terms of happiness. Here are the five top states for total happiness, which combines these various factors.

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1. Utah tops the list, ranking number 1 in job satisfaction. This might have something to do with the fact that Utah also ranks number 1 lowest number of median hours worked per week. Also notable is that Utah is number 1 for volunteerism and has the lowest divorce rate.

2. Minnesota is second and ranks number 1 for emotional and physical well-being.

3. North Dakota is third with all around high marks.

4. Colorado, which ranks second for emotional and physical well-being. Could it be legalized pot or just the Rocky Mountain high?

5. Nebraska

The least happy states are clustered in the south:

51. West Virginia

50. Alabama

49. Mississippi

48. Arkansas

47. Kentucky

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Some other notable placements: California ranks 14th overall behind Washington D.C. and Alaska. New York is 28th overall with middling numbers all around. Some states have wildly disparate rankings between categories. For instance, Oklahoma ranks 41st overall, but 8th in terms of job satisfaction. Still that does not make up for the very poor emotional and physical well-being of people there, 48th out of 51. Vermont is the opposite, with high scores for physical and emotional well-being where it ranks 6th, and a dismal work satisfaction ranking, 42nd. In Texas, which is 18th overall, people are a lot happier at work, ranking 7th, and not feeling as much phsyical and emotional well-being, where it ranks 30th.

But if you define happiness as pure, pleasure-seeking hedonism, the rankings are very different. The winners in that category are: Hawaii, followed by the District of Columbia (no explanation given) and Montana. In fourth place is a three-way tie between Utah, Vermont and Wyoming. Hawaii also ranks first for lowest rate of depression, followed by California.

With overall happiness clustered in the upper midwest and west, and misery clustered in the poorest southern states, some other stark regional differences also show up in some other categories. Eastern states are generally seen as safer; Massachusetts  ranks number one for safety. Nevada, dead last. Suicide rates are lower in the east as well: lowest rate in Washington D.C., highest rate, Wyoming.

Check out how your state ranks with this interactive map, and click on link at top for more details.

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Janet Allon

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