The Happiest States in the U.S. Work Less and Love More, New Data Shows
Emotional and physical well-being, work environment, and community are all factors.
Every state is associated with certain stereotypes: New Yorkers are always rushing; Georgians are polite; Californians are laid-back. But what about the things we can't see? The most anxious states, for example. Uncovering these trends takes research and a more nuanced look at lifestyle. And that's exactly what the researchers at WalletHub used to arrive at their list of the happiest states in the U.S.
The study looked at 30 key metrics, "ranging from the depression rate and the share of adults feeling productive to income growth and the unemployment rate," across three main categories—emotional and physical well-being, work environment, and community and environment. Each metric was then graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing maximum happiness.
From there, the researchers were able to "determine which environmental factors are linked to a person's overall well-being and satisfaction with life" and rank all 50 states from least to most happy. Keep reading to find out where your state landed on this list.
Total score: 35.08
Emotional and physical well-being: 50
Work environment: 50
Community and environment: 33
West Virginia is the least-happy state, ranking dead last in both work environment and emotional and physical well-being. The latter category is comprised of the following metrics: career well-being, physical health, adverse childhood experiences, share of adult depression, social well-being, share of adults with alcohol use disorder, adequate sleep rate, sports participation rate, share of adults feeling active and productive, mental health, life expectancy, suicide rate, and food-insecurity rate.
The state was brought down by its last-place ranking for depression and last-place ranking for adequate sleep.
Total score: 35.86
Emotional and physical well-being: 48
Work environment: 49
Community and environment: 43
Not far behind West Virginia is Louisiana, which came second-to-last for work environment. The metrics included in this category are the number of hours worked, commute time, the share of households earning annual incomes above $75,000, financial anxiety, unemployment rate, long-term unemployment rate, underemployment rate, job security, work-related stressed tweets, income growth rate, economic security, and median credit score.
As for Louisiana's specifics, they rank 46th for sports participation rate, 46th for mean work hours, 48th for divorce rate, and 50th for safety.
Total score: 38.30
Emotional and physical well-being: 45
Work environment: 38
Community and environment: 49
Tennessee ranks 49th for community and environment. The metrics included in this category are volunteer rate, weather, safety, leisure time, and divorce rate. Their well-being score was brought down by their 47th-spot ranking for adult depression.
Total score: 39.72
Emotional and physical well-being: 49
Work environment: 42
Community and environment: 18
Arkansas ranks 49th for emotional and physical well-being. They came in 46th for adult depression and 48th for safety.
Total score: 40.58
Emotional and physical well-being: 47
Work environment: 41
Community and environment: 26
Kentucky has the second-worst depression rate, the third-worst sports participation rate, and the fourth-worst adequate sleep rate.
Total score: 40.82
Emotional and physical well-being: 44
Work environment: 44
Community and environment: 42
Alabama also has a poor adequate sleep rate, coming in at number 48. The state ranks 47th for volunteer rate and 46th for safety.
Total score: 41.42
Emotional and physical well-being: 42
Work environment: 47
Community and environment: 41
Mississippi scored especially poorly for work environment. Their divorce rate is also the fourth-worst, and they're second-to-last in safety.
It's worth noting that Mississippi and all the states that ranked worse than it are all located roughly in the South-Central United States.
Total score: 42.20
Emotional and physical well-being: 36
Work environment: 48
Community and environment: 47
It's not surprising that perhaps the most remote (and coldest!) state comes in at the tail end for both work environment and community and environment. The state has the third-highest suicide rate, the most mean work hours, and the lowest income growth rating.
Total score: 43.49
Emotional and physical well-being: 43
Work environment: 45
Community and environment: 17
Though New Mexico has a good community and environment score, it falls behind in the other two categories. The state has the fourth-highest suicide rate, the fifth-lowest volunteer rate (tied), and the absolute highest divorce rate.
Total score: 44.09
Emotional and physical well-being: 46
Work environment: 43
Community and environment: 4
Unfortunately, Oklahoma's amazing community and environment score is negated by its bottom-10 ranking in the other categories. The state scores especially low (46th) for income growth.
Total score: 46.48
Emotional and physical well-being: 40
Work environment: 27
Community and environment: 20
Indiana was pretty average for work environment and community and environment, but their emotional and physical well-being score brings them down to the 40th state in overall happiness.
Total score: 47.66
Emotional and physical well-being: 25
Work environment: 40
Community and environment: 50
Texas has the worst score for community and environment. They rank 47th for safety and 49th for mean work hours.
Total score: 47.67
Emotional and physical well-being: 34
Work environment: 36
Community and environment: 31
Oregon has similar scores in each category. They are the second-best state in terms of income growth and fourth-best for mean work hours.
Total score: 47.77
Emotional and physical well-being: 35
Work environment: 31
Community and environment: 34
Like Oregon, Ohio's scores are in line across the board.
Total score: 48.06
Emotional and physical well-being: 38
Work environment: 26
Community and environment: 19
Despite having good scores in the other categories, Wyoming is brought down by emotional and physical well-being. They have the highest suicide rate in the U.S., the third-most hours worked (in a tie), and the third-lowest income growth. On the positive side, however, Wyoming's volunteer rate is the second-best in the country.
Total score: 48.64
Emotional and physical well-being: 39
Work environment: 17
Community and environment: 22
Like Wyoming, Missouri is dragged down by its emotional and physical well-being score.
Total score: 49.11
Emotional and physical well-being: 41
Work environment: 2
Community and environment: 36
Montana comes in at number two for work environment, but its scores in the other two categories held the state back in its overall ranking. It has the second-highest suicide rate but the third-lowest long-term unemployment rate.
Total score: 50.20
Emotional and physical well-being: 32
Work environment: 24
Community and environment: 28
Michigan is a state that comes in as pretty average in all categories.
Total score: 50.71
Emotional and physical well-being: 33
Work environment: 46
Community and environment: 3
Nevada has one of the worst work environment scores; it's dead last for long-term unemployment rate. It also comes in 49th for volunteer rate and divorce rate. Despite these low rankings, it has the third-best community and environment score.
Total score: 51.51
Emotional and physical well-being: 23
Work environment: 22
Community and environment: 45
It seems Coloradoans may be sleeping well after a day of physical activity. The state has the absolute highest adequate sleep rate, as well as sports participation rate.
Total score: 51.99
Emotional and physical well-being: 31
Work environment: 11
Community and environment: 24
Maine comes in fourth place for volunteerism and second place for safety.
Total score: 52.40
Emotional and physical well-being: 22
Work environment: 12
Community and environment: 46
Though its community and environment score is one of the worst, if work-life balance is what you're after, Rhode Island could be a good choice. The state has the third-fewest mean hours worked.
Total score: 52.78
Emotional and physical well-being: 37
Work environment: 10
Community and environment: 7
Vermont takes the number-one spot for safety. They also come in at number two for sports participation and three for adequate sleep. However, the state has the third-highest share of depression
Total score: 53.48
Emotional and physical well-being: 21
Work environment: 33
Community and environment: 23
Nearing the halfway point, Arizona has the fifth-highest income growth in the U.S.
Total score: 53.55
Emotional and physical well-being: 15
Work environment: 28
Community and environment: 38
Not only does North Carolina fall in the middle of the East Coast, but it also falls almost smack dab in the middle for happiness. In fact, all states along the Eastern Seaboard were in the top 30.
Total score: 53.96
Emotional and physical well-being: 17
Work environment: 35
Community and environment: 27
The most averagely happy state is Pennsylvania, but its residents may also be tired; it comes in 46th for adequate sleep.
Total score: 54.10
Emotional and physical well-being: 24
Work environment: 30
Community and environment: 15
With the exception of Florida (which cracks the top 10) the Southeastern states are all just about average in terms of overall happiness.
Total score: 54.46
Emotional and physical well-being: 29
Work environment: 15
Community and environment: 14
Allow us to note that this survey was conducted before the NFL season was in full swing, so Kansas was a pretty happy state even before Taylor Swift started rooting for the Chiefs. This is partly due to them having the fourth-lowest long-term unemployment rate.
Total score: 54.87
Emotional and physical well-being: 26
Work environment: 23
Community and environment: 12
Washington's positive score can be attributed to its third-place ranking for income growth and third-place sports participation rate.
Total score: 55.03
Emotional and physical well-being: 18
Work environment: 18
Community and environment: 37
Iowa is tied for having the fourth-lowest long-term unemployment rate, which explains their positive work environment score.
Total score: 55.27
Emotional and physical well-being: 28
Work environment: 20
Community and environment: 11
Rounding out the top 20 happiest states is South Carolina.
Total score: 55.74
Emotional and physical well-being: 19
Work environment: 13
Community and environment: 32
For the most part, the Midwest is a pretty happy region.
Total score: 55.93
Emotional and physical well-being: 27
Work environment: 9
Community and environment: 16
On one hand, those who live in South Dakota tie for the fourth-lowest depression rate and come in fifth for adequate sleep—but on the other, they have the fifth-highest suicide rate. This state is also tied for having the absolute lowest long-term unemployment rate.
Total score: 56.23
Emotional and physical well-being: 9
Work environment: 37
Community and environment: 40
Neighbors Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois all score similarly.
Total score: 56.71
Emotional and physical well-being: 7
Work environment: 39
Community and environment: 39
New York is tied for having the second-highest long-term unemployment rate, but it also has the second-lowest suicide rate.
Total score: 57.29
Emotional and physical well-being: 20
Work environment: 19
Community and environment: 9
New Hampshire is the third-safest state in the U.S. Interestingly, its New England neighbors Maine and Vermont come in second and first, respectively, in this category.
Total score: 57.69
Emotional and physical well-being: 13
Work environment: 8
Community and environment: 35
Perhaps for its proximity to Washington, D.C., Virginia has one of the best work environments in the U.S.
Total score: 58.02
Emotional and physical well-being: 14
Work environment: 5
Community and environment: 21
North Dakota ties with South Dakota for having the lowest long-term unemployment rates in the country. But that might come with a caveat because North Dakota ties for third for the most hours worked and has the second-lowest income growth. Back on the positive side, the state has the second-lowest divorce rate.
Total score: 58.43
Emotional and physical well-being: 4
Work environment: 16
Community and environment: 48
Massachusetts' amazing emotional and physical well-being score is exemplified by its third-lowest suicide rate. The state also ties for fifth place in fewest hours worked.
Total score: 58.68
Emotional and physical well-being: 11
Work environment: 29
Community and environment: 6
Delaware has one of the highest long-term unemployment rates in the U.S., but very high scores in the other categories landed it in the 11th spot for overall happiness.
Total score: 58.92
Emotional and physical well-being: 12
Work environment: 7
Community and environment: 25
The first state to break into the top 10 is Nebraska. Not only do they have an exceptionally positive work environment score, but they have the fifth-lowest divorce rate and the fourth-best adequate sleep rate.
Total score: 59.31
Emotional and physical well-being: 30
Work environment: 6
Community and environment: 2
Idaho has a great work environment score, with one of the lowest long-term unemployment rates and the highest income growth rates. But it's their community environment score that really propels them to the top.
Total score: 59.31
Emotional and physical well-being: 2
Work environment: 21
Community and environment: 44
Is it any surprise that the Sunshine State has the second-highest emotional and physical well-being score? Their share of adult depression is the second-lowest, however, they have the 46th-highest divorce rate and the absolute worst volunteer rate.
Total score: 60.53
Emotional and physical well-being: 5
Work environment: 34
Community and environment: 10
Like Florida, California is another state with great weather that gets high scores for emotional and physical well-being. Their depression rate is the third lowest, and their income growth is the highest in the U.S.
Total score: 60.68
Emotional and physical well-being: 6
Work environment: 32
Community and environment: 8
The Tri-State region is a pretty happy place. Connecticut has the fifth-lowest suicide rate and is tied for the fifth-fewest mean work hours. Despite being so close to major cities, though, the state also has one of the highest long-term unemployment rates and lowest income growths.
Total score: 61.98
Emotional and physical well-being: 3
Work environment: 14
Community and environment: 29
New Jersey may be the butt of many a joke, but that's not getting its residents down. The state has the third-lowest divorce rate and the number-one lowest suicide rate. Like Connecticut, though, the commuter state has one of the highest long-term unemployment rates.
Total score: 62.82
Emotional and physical well-being: 10
Work environment: 3
Community and environment: 13
Minnesota has one of the best work environments, which may explain why its residents have plenty of extra time for volunteering. The state also has the second-highest adequate sleep rate.
Total score: 64.62
Emotional and physical well-being: 8
Work environment: 4
Community and environment: 5
Maryland scores in the single digits for all three categories. Notably, the state has some of the lowest suicide and depression rates.
Total score: 66.42
Emotional and physical well-being: 1
Work environment: 25
Community and environment: 30
Living on a beautiful island definitely contributes to emotional and physical and well-being. Hawaii has the lowest depression rate in the U.S. and the fourth-lowest divorce rate. They come in fifth for safety, too. Two negatives about the state are its adequate sleep rate (it comes in 49th) and volunteer rate (it ties for 45th).
Total score: 69.79
Emotional and physical well-being: 16
Work environment: 1
Community and environment: 1
Coming in at number one overall—as well as number one for work environment and community and environment—is Utah. The Western state is full of outdoor adventures, so it makes sense that they tie for the third spot for sports participation. This is helped by the fact that Utah residents work the fewest mean hours in the U.S.—which is also probably why they have the best volunteer rate in the country.
Additionally, the state has the absolute lowest divorce rate and is the fourth safest in the nation.
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