What creates happiness? Money plays a part in it, but as a study earlier this year from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University showed, that part is limited. Of course, there are a number of factors aside from money that add up to complete emotional well-being, which range from altruism, to social connectedness to exercise. When it comes to money, it turns out, people's happiness increases alongside their incomes only until they make around $75K. As an AlterNet article pointed out last month, "according to the study, if you’re below this level of annual income, which the majority of Americans are, you’re more likely to feel unhappy on a daily basis. Meanwhile, if you’re in the minority earning above that bracket, you’ve hit the threshold for diminishing marginal returns on daily happiness."
Intrigued by the happiness study, the personal finance social network Wallet Hub conducted a poll to determine how happy people in the U.S. are, state by state. The results were released this month.
The Wallet Hub poll used similar measurements to the Gallup-Healthways poll for its survey. It compared all 50 states and Washington, D.C., across 25 metrics, ranging from emotional health to income levels to sports participation rates. As an article on Wallet Hub notes, "Apart from financial security, a pleasant state of being also depends on one’s physical health, job satisfaction, environment, social connectivity and general outlook on life — among others."
Other groups have paved the way for happiness measurement with similar polls. Last year, members of the research consulting company Gallup teamed up with the well-being improvement company Healthways to create a breakdown of emotional wellness worldwide.
To take their measurements, Gallup and Healthways broke happiness down into specific positive emotional indicators, such as enjoyment, laughing or smiling a lot, feeling well-rested, feeling respected, or having learned something interesting. They polled people in 138 countries in 2013, asking whether they'd experienced these feelings the previous day. Gallup then organized the "yes" results into a Positive Experience Index score for each nation.
In general, it turns out Latin America is the place to be. For the third year running, Paraguay is the happiest country in the world. The 10 happiest places on Earth are all located in Central and South America— minus Denmark, which squeezed in there at No. 8.
Wallet Hub's U.S. poll found out that the five most emotionally well states are, in order of ranking: Utah, Minnesota, Hawaii, Colorado and North Dakota. The five unhappiest states are Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and all the way down in last place, West Virginia.
Find out where your state ranks on the Wallet Hub happiness scale.