Top 10 Happiest States in America

They say money can't buy happiness, but study results suggest otherwise.

They say money can’t buy happiness, but study results suggest otherwise.1

According to the findings, life satisfaction rises as income increases, but only up to $75,000 a year. Past that figure, money makes little difference.1

Similarly, the results of a Gallup-Healthways annual poll measuring global well-being reinforces the idea that “people who make more money tend to report higher positive emotions.”2 However, money isn’t the sole determinant of happiness. Other factors that affect overall well-being are physical health, personal purpose and social connectivity.

With those elements in mind, WalletHub analysts recently compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine which states are home to the happiest Americans. A total of 28 key metrics were examined, ranging from emotional and physical health, to income levels, to work and community environments.3

Based on those metrics, the happiest states are3:

1. Utah

2. Minnesota

3. North Dakota

4. Hawaii

5. Colorado

6. Idaho

7. Iowa

8. Nebraska

9. South Dakota

10. California

In contrast, the unhappiest states are3:

51. West Virginia

50. Alabama

49. Kentucky

48. Mississippi

47. Arkansas

46. Louisiana

45. Tennessee

44. Oklahoma

43. Michigan

42. Missouri

41. New Mexico

Other Key Findings3

● Hawaii has the lowest depression rate (10.7%), which is 2.2 times lower than in Oregon, where the rate is highest (24%).

● The District of Columbia has the lowest number of suicides per 100,000 residents (7.8), which is 3.1 times lower than in Montana, where the number is highest (23.9).

● Utah has the lowest divorce rate (15.97%), which is 1.9 times lower than in the District of Columbia, where the rate is highest (31%). Utah also has the lowest rate of heart attacks and the highest volunteerism rate.

● North Dakota has the lowest long-term unemployment rate (13.1%), which is 3.8 times lower than in the District of Columbia, where the rate is highest (49.2%).

● The states with the highest income growth are North Dakota, the District of Colombia, and South Dakota, while the states with the lowest income growth are Michigan, Georgia, and Florida

Methodology

Data used to create these rankings were collected from the US Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Council for Community and Economic Research, CDC, Feeding America, Corporation for National and Community Service, Gallup-Healthways, TripAdvisor, Hedonometer.org, Social Science Research Council, Regents of the University of Minnesota, and WalletHub research.

Each of the following metrics was graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing the maximum happiness:

Emotional and Physical Well-Being - Total Points: 50

● Satisfaction Index (measures self-reported levels of general satisfaction with life): Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Hedonometer Rank (measures personal expression of hedonism on social media): Half Weight (~2.00 Points)

● Physical Health Index (measures self-reported effects of disease on personal happiness): Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Depression Rate (measures percentage of individuals who were diagnosed with depression): Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Adequate-Sleep Rate (measures self-reported effects of sleep deprivation on personal happiness): Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Emotional Health Index (measures self-reported effects of emotional well-being on personal happiness): Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Obesity Rate (measures percentage of overweight or obese individuals): Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Binge-Drinking Rate (measures self-reported effects of high alcohol consumption on happiness): Half Weight (~2.00 Points)

● Food Insecurity Rate: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Rate of Heart Attacks (measures percentage of individuals who were diagnosed with a heart attack): Half Weight (~2.00 Points)

● Life Expectancy: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Sports Participation Rate (measures happiness gained from physical activity through sports): Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Illness and Disability Index (measures self-reported effects of illness and disability on personal happiness): Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

● Suicide Rate: Full Weight (~4.00 Points)

Work Environment - Total Points: 25

● Commute Time: Half Weight (~2.08 Points)

● Income Level (personal earnings adjusted by cost of living): Half Weight (~2.08 Points)

● Number of Work Hours: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)

● Current Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)

● Long-Term Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)

● Job Security (measures probability of unemployment): Full Weight (~4.17 Points)

● Income-Growth Rate: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)

Community and Environment - Total Points: 25

● Volunteerism Rate: Half Weight (~2.27 Points)

● WalletHub “Weather” Ranking: Half Weight (~2.27 Points)

● Number of Iterations: Half Weight (~2.27 Points)

● Leisure Time Spent on an Average Day: Full Weight (~4.55 Points)

● Divorce Rate (also includes adult population that is separated): Full Weight (~4.55 Points)

● Population-Growth Rate: Full Weight (~4.55 Points)

● WalletHub “Safety” Ranking: Full Weight (~4.55 Points)

References

1. Kahneman D, Deaton A. High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010;107(38):16489-16493.

2. Clifton J. People worldwide are reporting a lot of positive emotions. Gallup. gallup.com/poll/169322/people-worldwide-reporting-lot-positive-emotions.aspx#2.

3. Bernardo R. 2016’s happiest states in America. WalletHub. wallethub.com/edu/happiest-states/6959/#ask-the-experts.