America’s Most Content (and Miserable) States

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5. Ohio
> Well-being index score: 64.2
> Life expectancy: 77.8 years (13th lowest)
> Pct. obese: 30.9% (8th highest)
> Median household income: $46,829 (17th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 88.8% (25th highest)

Despite its low well-being score, Ohio stands out from other low ranking states because it doesn’t exhibit many of the elements often present in those states. For one, Ohio’s median household income of $46,829 in 2012 was higher than most states with low well-being scores. Similarly, its residents had better access to basic needs than residents of other low well-being states. However, residents generally had low evaluations of their lives, trailing only West Virginia and Kentucky by that measure. Just 49.3% of respondents stated they were thriving in their lives last year, one of the lowest proportions in the nation. Relatively few respondents indicated they had a learning experience within the previous 24 hours, and residents were among the most likely in the U.S. to have felt angry that day. This contributed to Ohio’s low ranking for emotional health.

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4. Alabama
> Well-being index score: 64.1
> Life expectancy: 75.4 years (tied-2nd lowest)
> Pct. obese: 28.1% (tied-20th highest)
> Median household income: $41,574 (4th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 84.0% (6th lowest)

The median household income in Alabama of just $41,574 in 2012 was fourth lowest in the nation. The relatively low income of many state residents may have made it difficult for them to access basic necessities. Relatively few Alabama residents said they had enough money to afford medicine, food, or adequate shelter. Alabama residents also had among the worst physical health in the nation. High blood pressure and diabetes in particular were much more common in Alabama than in most other states. Also, there were 236 deaths per 100,000 people due to heart disease, the second-most nationwide.

3. Mississippi
> Well-being index score: 63.7
> Life expectancy: 75.0 years (the lowest)
> Pct. obese: 35.4% (the highest)
> Median household income: $37,095 (the lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 82.3% (3rd lowest)

Nowhere else in the U.S. did people feel as negative about their work environment as in Mississippi. But this was just one of the problems facing state residents. Respondents were among the most likely in the nation to lack access to basic necessities. More than a quarter of people surveyed in the state indicated they did not have money for food at some point in the previous 12 months, while nearly as many lacked money for health care. By a number of measures, the state was one of the absolute poorest in the nation. The median income in Mississippi was just $37,095 in 2012, lowest in the U.S. Also, 24.2% of people lived below the poverty line, more than in any other state. With limited access to basic needs and poor healthy behaviors, the state was among the worst in the nation in physical health assessments. Last year, no state had a higher obesity rate than Mississippi. In 2010, no state had a higher rate of death from heart disease or a lower life expectancy at birth than Mississippi.

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2. Kentucky
> Well-being index score: 63.0
> Life expectancy: 76.0 years (tied-6th lowest)
> Pct. obese: 30.6% (9th highest)
> Median household income: $41,724 (5th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 83.8% (5th lowest)

Kentuckians had some of the most unhealthy behaviors last year. Less than 60% of those surveyed said they ate well all day, the worst among all states, while the smoking rate was the highest in the nation. Unhealthy habits in the state likely contributed to poor physical health. Respondents from Kentucky were among the most likely to complain about lack of energy and sleep, and nearly 30% said health issues prevented them from going about their normal lives. The state’s population was the nation’s most reliant on prescription drugs, with 19.3 prescriptions filled per capita in 2011, tied with West Virginia.

1. West Virginia
> Well-being index score: 61.4
> Life expectancy: 75.4 years (tied-2nd lowest)
> Pct. obese: 34.4% (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $40,196 (3rd lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 84.5% (8th lowest)

No Americans had as negative an outlook about their future as West Virginians, who rated their projected life in five years the lowest. Additionally, just 44.8% of residents described themselves as thriving, the lowest in the nation. West Virginia also had the lowest score for overall emotional health, ranking either the lowest or second-lowest in nearly all of the indicators considered by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Unsurprisingly, residents had less confidence about the future of the U.S. economy than those anywhere else in the nation. Outside of attitudes, West Virginians were also the least physically healthy respondents in the nation. The state had the highest rates of both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the second highest obesity rate. It also had the highest rate of respondents unable to partake in age-appropriate activities.

Click here to see America’s most content states

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