America’s Most Content (and Miserable) Cities

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America’s Most Content Cities

10. Lincoln, Neb.
> Well-Being Index score: 70.1
> Pct. adults with college degree: 35.9% (41st highest)
> Pct. smokers: 17.2%
> Median household income: $50,668

Unlike most areas with the happiest residents, median income in Lincoln was just in line with the national median. Still, a large portion of residents said they were thriving, rating their current life and outlook for the future as especially good. Lincoln residents gave higher evaluations to their work experience than residents in any other area, except for San Luis Obispo, Calif. More than 91% said they were satisfied with their jobs, the 12th-highest percentage in the nation. Additionally, nearly 64% felt treated like a partner at work, higher than in all but a few other metro areas. The area is home to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which spent a quarter billion dollars on research and development in fiscal 2012 and had more than 8,000 employees as of 2013.

9. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
> Well-Being Index score: 70.2
> Pct. adults with college degree: 45.0%
> Pct. smokers: 13.1%
> Median household income: $74,922

The San Francisco metro area isn’t just one of the richest areas in America by median household income, it also has some of the most content residents in the country. People in the area had extremely high evaluations of their lives. More than 57% of residents said they were thriving, the 12th-highest percentage in the nation. Residents were also generally healthy, as less than 20% suffered from obesity, among the lowest rates in the U.S. Like many of the most content cities, the area is well educated — 45% of its residents had a college education or higher. Students have a wide choice of top schools to attend in the area, including the University of California at San Francisco, the University of California at Berkeley, and San Francisco State University.

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8. San Luis Obispo, Calif.
> Well-Being Index score: 70.4
> Pct. adults with college degree: 33.5%
> Pct. smokers: 12.7%
> Median household income: $60,264

Residents of the San Luis Obispo area reported among the highest scores in the country for emotional health. Those surveyed were among the most likely to report that they felt good over the past day. Slightly less than 89% of residents surveyed said they smiled or laughed a lot over the past day, the third-highest percentage in the nation. In addition to strong emotional health, residents also enjoyed good physical health. Respondents were among the least likely in the nation to report smoking, and among the most likely to report having eaten healthy food exclusively within the past day. Further, residents gave higher ratings to their work environments than people anywhere else in the nation. A majority of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs, and 67.3% said they felt their supervisors treated them like partners at work — the highest percentage in the U.S. Also, 73.3% said they had learned something new or interesting in the past day, well above the national rate of 63.3%.

7. Naples-Marco Island, Fla.
> Well-Being Index score: 70.4
> Pct. adults with college degree: 31.0%
> Pct. smokers: 17.1%
> Median household income: $54,126

Residents of the Naples area reported among the highest emotional health scores in the country. Almost three of every four said they had not spent much time worrying, and 88.3% said they smiled a lot within the past 24 hours — both the highest percentages in the nation last year. Nearly all respondents felt they had positive interactions with other area residents, with roughly 97% saying they were treated with respect in 2012. While 28.2% of the Naples population was over 65 years old in 2012, few metro areas scored better for overall physical health. Almost nowhere else were people more likely to note they felt well rested and that they had enough energy to get things done.

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6. Ann Arbor, Mich.
> Well-Being Index score: 70.4
> Pct. adults with college degree: 49.7%
> Pct. smokers: 14.3%
> Median household income: $56,330

Ann Arbor residents had higher evaluations of their lives — rating their current life and outlook for the future as especially good — than people anywhere else in the U.S. Nearly 64% of residents said they were thriving, the most in the nation. Ann Arbor residents were also the least likely to say they struggled to afford basic necessities such as food and shelter, and among the most likely to say they had health insurance. Respondents gave only middling ratings to their work environment, although 93% of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs. Like many of America’s most content metro areas, Ann Arbor is home to a major research university, the University of Michigan, which is one of the area’s largest employers.