America’s Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

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46. Arkansas
> Well-being index score: 64.1
> Life expectancy: 76.1 years (6th lowest)
> Obesity: 31.4% (3rd highest)
> Median household income: $38,758 (3rd lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 83.8% (8th lowest)

Arkansas ranked in the bottom 10 in all but one of the well-being categories. The state ranked fourth from the bottom in terms of physical health. A higher percentage of people were told they had cancer compared to any other state. More than 31% of respondents were clinically obese, a higher percentage than all but two states. Arkansas also ranked fourth from the bottom in healthy behaviors. Over 27% of the population indicated that they smoked, the fourth-highest rate of all states. The average life expectancy in the state was just over 76 years old, the sixth-lowest of all states. Good health could be impeded by the state’s low income. The state’s median household income of $38,758 in 2011 was the third lowest of all states.

Also Read: The States With The Strongest And Weakest Unions

47. Tennessee
> Well-being index score: 64.0
> Life expectancy: 76.2 years (8th lowest)
> Obesity: 29.6% (7th highest)
> Median household income: $41,693 (6th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 84.2% (12th lowest)

According to the FBI, Tennessee had the nation’s highest violent crime rate in 2011, at over 608.2 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. This likely affected the state’s rank in Gallup’s access to basic necessities category, which included a question about being able to walk alone at night safely. The state ranked 11th worst in the U.S. in that question. In addition, Tennesseans reported some of the most critical conditions when it came to their own working environments. They were also among the Americans most likely to report they had poor health behaviors, such as not eating well. Just under 62% of Tennesseans indicated they ate healthily all day the day prior to being surveyed–worse than every state but Kentucky. Such unhealthy behavior potentially contributed to the state’s low scores for both emotional and physical health. Residents were among the nation’s most likely to reveal they felt sad or depressed, and also among the most likely to have high blood pressure or cholesterol.

48. Mississippi
> Well-being index score: 63.6
> Life expectancy: 74.8 years (the lowest)
> Obesity: 32.2% (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $36,919 (the lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 81.1% (3rd lowest)

Mississippi ranked lower than any other state in Gallup’s basic access to necessities category. For instance, nearly 25% of state residents indicated they did not have enough money to buy food for themselves or their family at some point in the last 12 months, the highest percentage of all states. Such problems are likely due to the state’s high-poverty rate and overall low incomes. The state’s median household income of $36,919 was the lowest of all 50 states, and the poverty rate of 22.6% was the highest. The lack of basic access to necessities may partly help explain why Mississippi ranked sixth from the bottom in terms of physical health. More than 38% of residents indicated they were told by a doctor or nurse that they had high blood pressure, a higher percentage than any state except for West Virginia. In addition, 15.4% of residents were told they had diabetes, more than any other state.

49. Kentucky
> Well-being index score: 62.7
> Life expectancy: 76.2 years (7th lowest)
> Obesity: 29.7% (6th highest)
> Median household income: $41,141 (4th lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 83.1% (6th lowest)

The state has one of the lowest proportions of adults with a high school degree, as well as the fourth-lowest median income in the country. Kentucky also ranked dead-last in terms of healthy behaviors. A mere 60.7% of respondents said they ate healthily the day before, by far the lowest of any state. Not surprisingly, Kentucky also ranked second from the bottom in terms of physical health. As many as 29% of people indicated they had health problems that prevented them from doing age-appropriate activities, a higher percentage than any state other than West Virginia. Kentucky also ranked second from the bottom in the life evaluation and emotional health categories.

50. West Virginia
> Well-being index score: 61.3
> Life expectancy: 75.2 years (2nd lowest)
> Obesity: 33.5% (the highest)
> Median household income: $38,482 (2nd lowest)
> Adult population with high school diploma or higher: 84.2% (12th lowest)

West Virginia residents’ well-being was the worst of all states. It scored dead last in three of the six categories: life evaluation, emotional health and physical health. The answers of West Virginians to questions in the physical health category were particularly alarming. It was the only state where more than 30% of residents were told by a physician or nurse that they had high cholesterol. In addition, nearly 40% of respondents were told they have high blood pressure, also the highest of all states. Unhealthy behaviors could be causing these problems. For instance, just 62.2% of West Virginians indicated they ate healthily the previous day, the fifth-lowest percentage of all states. Moreover, 31.4% of respondents indicated that they smoked, the highest percentage of all states. The state had the second-lowest median income in the U.S., and a very high proportion of those surveyed in the state reported not being able to afford food or medicine. West Virginians had the second-worst life expectancy at birth in the country.

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