America's Most Content (and Miserable) Cities

5. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, N.C.
> Well-being index score: 62.7
> Obesity: 32.1%
> Median household income: $38,923
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 79.0%

Nowhere else in the nation did people have as negative an evaluation of their lives as in the Hickory metro area. A major reason was that survey respondents living there were less optimistic about their life in five years than respondents in almost all other parts of the country. Hickory residents also were rated poorly for emotional health, with survey respondents telling Gallup they felt sad or depressed more often than in almost all other metro areas. As of January, the Hickory metro area had an 11.5% unemployment rate, among the higher rates in the country. Many residents lacked the formal education necessary to work in higher paying jobs. Just 79% of residents had at least a high school diploma, and 18.2% at least a bachelor’s degree, versus 85.9% and 28.5%, nationwide.

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4. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas
> Well-being index score: 62.5
> Obesity: 32.5%
> Median household income: $43,176
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 84.1%

Some 75.3% of residents in the Beaumont area were satisfied with the city, one of the lowest figures in the nation. Among their concerns, less than 60% of residents felt safe going out at night. One possible reason is that, as of 2011, the area had a high crime rate — at 545.9 violent crimes per 100,000 people. That was well above the U.S. benchmark of 386.3 per 100,000. Additionally, just 15.7% of all residents from the Beaumont-Port Arthur area have a college degree, versus 28.5% across the United States. This likely prevents many workers from getting jobs that appeal to their strengths and satisfy them. Only people in one area nationwide, Fayetteville, N.C., gave their work environments lower ratings.

3. Mobile, Ala.
> Well-being index score: 62.4
> Obesity: 33.7%
> Median household income: $42,372
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 83.8%

The area was ranked as one of the worst in the nation for both emotional and physical health. Respondents to Gallup’s survey from the area were more likely to say they were sad, angry, worried or depressed than those in nearly all other metro areas. Just 74% of residents had no health problems that prevented them from age-appropriate activities, while just under 65% were well rested the day before, both among the lower proportions in the country. In addition to poor health, Mobile had one of the nation’s higher crime rates in 2011, at 608.2 crimes per 100,000 residents, compared to 386.3 crimes per 100,000 nationwide. Worse, Mobile had 11.3 murders per 100,000 people that year, the 10th highest figure of any metro area in the country.

2. Huntington-Ashland, W.Va.-Ky.-Ohio
> Well-being index score: 61.2
> Obesity: 37.7%
> Median household income: $36,894
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 83.7%

The Huntington area rates as one of the nation’s worst metropolitan areas for healthy behavior and emotional health, as well as the single worst for physical health. In addition to infrequent exercise, residents also worried and stressed more than nearly all other Americans. Among survey respondents from the area, just 77% told Gallup they had enough energy to do the things they wanted to, while only about two-thirds could participate in age-appropriate physical activities — both among the worst figures in the United States. In 2011, the area’s median household income was $36,894, while 19.9% of people lived below the poverty line, both considerably worse than figures for the nation overall.

1. Charleston, W.Va.
> Well-being index score: 60.8
> Obesity: 32.9%
> Median household income: $40,990
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 85.5%

Charleston was the worst performing metro area on Gallup’s well-being index for 2012. The area scored lower for emotional health than anywhere else in the U.S., with residents among the most likely to report they were stressed, angry, sad and worried. Additionally, only the Huntington metro area received a lower score for physical health. Charleston residents reported the highest rate of smoking and the worst access to a safe place to exercise, which may contribute to the fact that it is the second-most obese metro area in the nation.

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