The 10 Happiest States in the US

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Lists of the best and worst states to live in abound, for reasons including obesitytax rates and cost of living.

But none that I know of come close to the the scope of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which has released its reports for 2012.

“Gallup and Healthways are interviewing no fewer than 500 U.S. adults nationwide each day, nearly 350 days a year,” the site says. It asks respondents 56 questions about their health and daily experience, on topics ranging from job satisfaction to the frequency of headaches to water quality.

The result is much more comprehensive and interesting than a study about any one of those individual things, and the number of people involved makes it possible to drill down even to the city level. (People from the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area of Texas have the most headaches, findings show.) But at the macro level, here are the 10 states with the highest well-being rankings:

  1. Hawaii
  2. Colorado
  3. Minnesota
  4. Utah
  5. Vermont
  6. Montana
  7. Nebraska
  8. New Hampshire
  9. Iowa
  10. Massachusetts

And here are perhaps the least happy:

  1. West Virginia
  2. Kentucky
  3. Mississippi
  4. Tennessee
  5. Arkansas
  6. Alabama
  7. Ohio
  8. Louisiana
  9. Indiana
  10. Oklahoma

Happiness is fairly subjective, and Gallup-Healthways avoids using the term. (It does ask respondents about how sad they feel on a daily basis.) But it’s pretty clear what it takes to rank consistently high on the index, and they’re all things people tend to associate with happiness.

Hawaii, Utah, Minnesota, Colorado and Montana have ranked high for the past five years, and here’s what the report says about why:

Compared to residents of low well-being states, residents of elite well-being states:

  • Rate their lives much better, today and in the future.
  • Have better emotional health, including much lower clinically diagnosed depression and daily sadness.
  • Have much lower obesity.
  • Carry substantially reduced disease burden, including lifetime high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart attack incidences and chronic physical pain.
  • Enjoy their jobs more.
  • Smoke a lot less, but exercise much more.

There’s a lot more to dig into in the full report and the state-level reports. Do you think you’re happier or less happy than most people in your state? Tell us why on our Facebook page.

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