America’s Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

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11. Maryland
> Well-being index score: 68.0
> Life expectancy: 78.1 years (18th lowest)
> Obesity: 27.0% (23rd highest)
> Median household income: $70,004 (the highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 88.9% (21st highest)

Maryland scored higher than any other state, except Hawaii, in terms of life evaluation — the only category in which it scored within the top 10. Nearly 58% of residents were considered to be thriving based on self evaluations, a higher percentage than any other state, except Hawaii. Meanwhile, just 39.2% of people were considered to be struggling, once again the second lowest behind Hawaii, and well below the 43.5% of people across the country. The average Maryland resident is doing a lot better than people in most states. The median household income in 2011 was $70,004, the highest in the country. Also, only 10.1% lived below the poverty line, lower than all states except for New Hampshire.

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12. South Dakota
> Well-being index score: 68.0
> Life expectancy: 79.9 years (11th highest)
> Obesity: 26.3% (24th lowest)
> Median household income: $48,321 (23rd lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 90.6% (10th highest)

When asked if the place they lived was improving, South Dakotans were more likely to say “yes” than any other state. The state has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country, and more than 56% of those surveyed by Gallup described themselves as thriving. However, residents were not as likely to believe their own lives were improving. While residents evaluated their current lives as prosperous, they were slightly more pessimistic about the next five years than Americans elsewhere. Despite this pessimism, respondents from the state were among the least likely to say they had felt a large amount of sadness, anger or depression the day before. South Dakota residents were also among the most likely to feel they had access to basic necessities, including health care, shelter and clean water.

13. Wyoming
> Well-being index score: 67.9
> Life expectancy: 77.6 years (15th lowest)
> Obesity: 24.7% (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $56,322 (13th highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 92.0% (2nd highest)

Wyoming scored higher than every state except for Hawaii in terms of emotional health with almost 89% of respondents saying they experienced a high amount of enjoyment the previous day. In addition, more than 72% of people said they didn’t experience a lot of worry during the previous day, a higher percentage than all but four states, and solidly above the 68% of people who felt the same way across the country. The state had the fourth-lowest unemployment rate in the country at the end of 2012, and in the work environment category, Wyoming also scored higher than any state except Hawaii. However, the state didn’t score better than most of its peers in every category. It was among the worst third in life evaluation, with a higher than average percentage of people identified as struggling.

14. Virginia
> Well-being index score: 67.7
> Life expectancy: 78.5 years (25th highest)
> Obesity: 26.2% (23rd lowest)
> Median household income: $61,882 (7th highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 87.8% (24th lowest)

Virginia’s residents evaluated their lives as being among the best in the country, and they were optimistic as well. Virginia is one of the wealthiest states in the country, with a very low poverty rate. This likely affected its strong score for basic access to needs, as a relatively high proportion of residents reported being able to afford shelter and healthy fruits and vegetables. Not only can they afford them, but more than 60% of residents reported eating a recommended number of healthy fruits and vegetables. The state ranks 15th for basic access to needs, such as healthy food and water, and 22nd for healthy behavior.

15. Washington
> Well-being index score: 67.7
> Life expectancy: 79.65 years (17th highest)
> Obesity: 24.4% (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $56,835 (12th highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 90.1% (16th highest)

Washington residents were among the survey respondents with the healthiest behaviors. Of those surveyed, 83% were non-smokers, higher than in any state, other than California and Utah. Washington also placed in the top third of all states for eating healthily all day, eating fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly. In addition, respondents reported a better quality of work environment than those in most other states. However, the state’s performance on Gallup’s emotional health and physical health indices was only roughly in line with the U.S. as a whole.

16. Connecticut
> Well-being index score: 67.6
> Life expectancy: 80.2 years (5th highest)
> Obesity: 22.7% (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $65,753 (4th highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 89.1% (20th highest)

Connecticut scored higher than all but three states in terms of physical health. Almost 82% of state residents indicated that they had no health problems preventing them from doing activities normal for their age, higher than all but two states. Based on their body mass index, more than 77% of Connecticut residents were not obese, the fourth-highest percentage of all states. Connecticut also ranked in the top 10 for healthy behaviors. For instance, more than 71% of residents responded that they ate healthily all day the prior day, higher than all but two states. And more than 61% of residents ate at least five servings of fruit and vegetables at least four of the previous seven days, the fourth-highest percentage among states. Perhaps partially as a result of this healthy activity, Connecticut residents have the fifth-highest life expectancy in the country.

17. Kansas
> Well-being index score: 67.6
> Life expectancy: 78.4 (25th lowest)
> Obesity: 26.3% (24th lowest)
> Median household income: $48,964 (25th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 90.0% (17th highest)

Kansas residents received mediocre ratings for their health behaviors. In its study, Gallup found that Kansans were less likely than residents of many other states to eat healthily all day, or to eat fruits and vegetables regularly. Despite their relatively poor dietary habits, Kansans ranked on par with the rest of the country for the quality of their physical health, and had roughly the same likelihood of being obese as Americans in general. In addition, Kansans reported a high quality of emotional health. More than 87% of respondents said they had an enjoyable experience the day before being surveyed, while nearly 85% stated they had not felt considerable sadness the day before.

18. California
> Well-being index score: 67.4
> Life expectancy: 80.4 years (3rd highest)
> Obesity: 23.1% (5th lowest)
> Median household income: $57,287 (10th highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 81.1% (3rd lowest)

California residents demonstrated healthier behaviors than those of nearly all other states. The percentage of residents who smoked was lower than in any state except Utah, while respondents also indicated they were highly likely to eat healthily all day and to exercise three times a week. However, residents in California also struggled at times to access basic health and safety necessities. Less than 66% felt safe walking alone at night, while just 87.3% said they had enough money for adequate shelter at all times in the last 12 months — both measures among the worst in the nation. As of December 2012, California had the second-worst unemployment rate.

19. North Dakota
> Well-being index score: 67.4
> Life expectancy: 80.1 years (6th highest)
> Obesity: 27.8% (19th highest)
> Median household income: $51,704 (20th highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 90.7% (9th highest)

North Dakota ranked higher than all but five states in terms of emotional health. Nearly 94% of respondents indicated that they were treated with respect all day during the prior day, while more than 85% said they smiled a lot in the previous day. Both figures were the second highest among all states, with only Hawaii residents reporting better results. Also, North Dakota’s physical health was higher than all but four states. Nearly 79% of residents said they didn’t experience poor health that kept them from doing normal activities in the last 30 days, a higher percentage than any other state. North Dakota’s weakest score was in the healthy behaviors category, where it ranked 13th from the bottom.

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20. Wisconsin
> Well-being index score: 67.3
> Life expectancy: 79.3 years (18th highest)
> Obesity: 27.1% (22nd highest)
> Median household income: $50,395 (21st highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 90.4% (13th highest)

Wisconsin was one of the top ranked states on Gallup’s emotional health index. More than 71% of residents indicated they had no worries the day before being surveyed, while nearly 84% said they were not depressed the day before — better than most states in both instances. Residents were also among the nation’s most likely to have access to basic necessities, especially inexpensive fruits and vegetables, as well as health care. Residents also tended to feel very safe walking alone at night. The state has the ninth-lowest violent crime rate in the country.