America’s Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

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31. Alaska
> Well-being index score: 66.1
> Life expectancy: 78.3 (22nd lowest)
> Obesity: 26.4% (24th highest)
> Median household income: $67,825 (2nd highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 91.8% (4th highest)

Alaska scored among the bottom 10 in two of the six categories for well-being: work environment and basic access to necessities. According to Gallup, Alaska had the fourth-worst work environment of all states. Just 52.9% of residents indicated that their supervisor treated them like a partner, while just 77.9% said their supervisor always created an environment that was trusting and open. Both of these figures were several percentage points below the national average and the sixth-lowest of all states. However, Alaska ranked fourth of all states in terms of life evaluation. More than 56% of Alaska residents were described as thriving, the fourth highest of all states. The state also scored the eighth highest in terms of emotional health. For instance, more than 68% of residents indicated they learned something interesting in the prior day, the fourth-highest percentage of all states.

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32. New Jersey
> Well-being index score: 66.1
> Life expectancy: 79.66 (16th highest)
> Obesity: 24.4% (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $67,458 (3rd highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 88.1% (25th lowest)

Much like their neighbors in New York, residents of New Jersey scored low in indicators of emotional health. Respondents from the state were among the most likely to tell Gallup they had experienced worry, sadness or anger within the last day. They were also among the least likely to note they experienced enjoyment or happiness in the previous day. Like New Yorkers, employed New Jerseyans were among the most likely Americans to note that they did not feel satisfied in their jobs and did not have a supervisor who promoted trust. Many employees, though, may feel fortunate just to have a job. As of December, the state’s unemployment rate of 9.6% was the nation’s fourth highest — up a nation-leading 0.5 percentage points from the year before.

33. Georgia
> Well-being index score: 66.1
> Life expectancy: 77.1 years (10th lowest)
> Obesity: 28.6% (14th highest)
> Median household income: $46,007 (18th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 84.3% (13th lowest)

Georgia had a mixed well-being record, scoring above average in some areas and well below in others. Of all the six well-being categories, Georgia’s worst score was in work environment, where the state ranked 11th from the bottom. For instance, only 86.2% of workers indicated that they were satisfied with their job or the work they do, the ninth-lowest of all states. However, Georgia scored in the top third in the life evaluation category. Georgians were very optimistic about the future. On a scale of one to 10, they rated their expectations for life in five years an 8 out of 10, the second highest of all states. Although far from the best, the 54.1% of people who indicated they were thriving at the time of the survey was within the top third of all states.

34. Florida
> Well-being index score: 65.8
> Life expectancy: 79.7 years (12th highest)
> Obesity: 25.1% (17th lowest)
> Median household income: $44,299 (14th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 85.9% (18th lowest)

Florida’s rank in the access to basic needs category was among the worst of all states. The state’s median income was more than $6,000 below the national median, and it was in the top third for poverty. In 2012, state residents were among the least likely to be able to provide adequate shelter for their families or have enough money to pay for necessary health care. In the past year, the state’s unemployment rate improved significantly, rising from sixth worst to 16th-worst. However, employed residents tended to be among the least satisfied with their work. One positive for Florida was that residents were more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, with an above-average rate of people getting exercise, as well as the fourth-highest rate of healthy eating.

35. North Carolina
> Well-being index score: 65.7
> Life expectancy: 77.2 years (11th lowest)
> Obesity: 28.9% (12th highest)
> Median household income: $43,916 (12th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 84.7% (14th lowest)

North Carolina’s worst score was for work environment, in which it ranked 12th from the bottom out of all states. Just over 86% of Gallup respondents indicated they were satisfied with either their job or the work they did, the 10th lowest percentage. The state also scored in the bottom third in terms of physical health. Almost 28% of residents have been told by a physician or nurse that they had high cholesterol, the fifth-highest percentage of all states. In addition, 32.3% of residents have been told they had high blood pressure, the 10th highest percentage. North Carolina managed to rank in the top half only in one category, and even there barely. The state ranked 25th for emotional health.

36. Michigan
> Well-being index score: 65.6
> Life expectancy: 77.9 years (17th lowest)
> Obesity: 28.5% (15th highest)
> Median household income: $45,981 (17th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 88.8% (22nd highest)

Michigan underperformed the country’s average scores in nearly all of Gallup’s categories used to measure well-being. The state received especially poor scores in physical health, with residents more likely to report recurring pain in their neck or back, their knees or legs, or elsewhere. The state also rated poorly in the emotional health category, with residents more likely to report feeling disrespected or stressed. Among possible contributing factors to low physical and emotional health ratings could be the higher than average rate of smokers in the state and the very low rate of job satisfaction. Michiganders also had among the highest unemployment rates in the country as of December 2012.

37. Rhode Island
> Well-being index score: 65.5
> Life expectancy: 79.3 years (19th highest)
> Obesity: 24.3% (8th lowest)
> Median household income: $53,636 (17th highest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 84.8% (15th lowest)

Rhode Island has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country. For those people who do have jobs, the state scored dead last in the category of work environment. It was the only state where under 80% of respondents said that they get to use their strengths at work to do what they do best. Rhode Island also scored third from the bottom in terms of emotional health. For instance, just over 80% of people indicated that they smiled or laughed a lot the previous day, the fourth-lowest percentage of all states. Moreover, just over 90% of the population said they had been treated with respect during the previous day, the third-lowest percentage. Not all was bad, however. The physical health of the state’s residents was ranked ninth best of all states.

38. Missouri
> Well-being index score: 65.5
> Life expectancy: 77.4 years (12th lowest)
> Obesity: 27.2% (21st highest)
> Median household income: $45,247 (15th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 87.6% (23rd lowest)

Missouri ranked eighth worst in terms of healthy behaviors. A mere 62% of respondents indicated that they ate healthily all day the previous day, the third-lowest percentage of all states. Missouri also ranked eighth worst in the life evaluation category. For instance, 4.7% of respondents to the Gallup survey were considered to be suffering, tied with Kentucky for third worst, behind West Virginia and Arkansas. The one well-being category where Missouri performed better than most states — ranking 17th — was work environment.

39. Nevada
> Well-being index score: 65.2
> Life expectancy: 77.6 years (14th lowest)
> Obesity: 24.9% (15th lowest)
> Median household income: $48,927 (24th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 84.0% (9th lowest)

Nevada ranked third from the bottom in terms of life evaluation. Only 49% of respondents from the state indicated that they were thriving, the third-lowest percentage of all states. Nearly as many respondents, 46.7%, indicated that they were struggling, the third-highest percentage of all states. Much of this could be due to the lingering results of the Great Recession. The housing market crash and subsequent high unemployment hit Nevada harder than any other state. The state’s unemployment rate as of December 2012 was 10.2%, tied with Rhode Island for the highest in the country. Nevada also ranked fourth from the bottom in terms of basic access to necessities. Just under 92% of residents said it was easy to get clean drinking water, while just 87.5% said it was easy to get medicine, the third- and fourth-lowest percentages of all states, respectively.

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40. South Carolina
> Well-being index score: 65.2
> Life expectancy: 76.6 years (9th lowest)
> Obesity: 27.9% (18th highest)
> Median household income: $42,367 (9th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 84.2% (12th lowest)

In 2011, South Carolina was one of the nation’s poorest states. That year, 18.9% of the state’s population lived below the poverty level, while median household income was just $42,367, both of which were among the worst figures in the nation. The state has often lacked the jobs necessary to help people improve their lives. In December 2011, the state had an unemployment rate of 9.6%, one of the nation’s worst that month. By December 2012, this rate had fallen to 8.4% but remained 12th worst out of the 50 states. Even workers who are employed often dislike their jobs. According to Gallup, South Carolina had one of the nation’s worst work environments. Palmetto State workers were less likely to say they were satisfied with their jobs, or that they used their strengths at work, than respondents in most other states. South Carolina was also among the lowest scoring states concerning workers who felt treated like equals by their supervisors.