Special Report

America’s Most Content (and Miserable) States

America’s Most Content States

10. Iowa
> Well-being index score: 68.2
> Life expectancy: 79.7 years (16th highest)
> Pct. obese: 28.1% (tied-20th highest)
> Median household income: $50,957 (23rd highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 91.6% (8th highest)

Iowa residents were among the most likely in the nation to report having access to basic necessities in 2013. This included among the best scores for access to healthy food, health care and safe neighborhoods. More than 82% of residents felt safe walking alone at night, and 87% felt they had enough money for health care and medicine, both among the highest proportions nationwide. Iowans were in relatively good physical health, with 77% of residents saying their health did not prevent them from going about their daily lives, more than those in any other state except for North Dakota and Nebraska. Working conditions were also quite good, with more than 90% of residents reporting they were satisfied with their jobs last year.

9. Washington
> Well-being index score: 68.3
> Life expectancy: 79.9 years (13th highest)
> Pct. obese: 25.0% (18th lowest)
> Median household income: $57,573 (12th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 90.4% (tied-15th highest)

Washington residents had some of the nation’s best outlook for their future. They were also among the happiest Americans at work. Washington’s relatively strong economy likely helped to boost residents’ opinions about their future and their work. The state’s economy grew by 3.6% in 2012, outpacing the rest of the nation. Economic confidence, too, was among the highest in Washington when compared with the rest of the U.S. Respondents from the state were especially likely to indicate they practiced healthy behavior. Nearly 62% said their regular diet included fruits and vegetables, and nearly 83% said they did not smoke, both among the highest proportions of any state.

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8. Hawaii
> Well-being index score: 68.4
> Life expectancy: 81.3 years (the highest)
> Pct. obese: 23.7% (9th lowest)
> Median household income: $66,259 (5th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 90.4% (tied-15th highest)

Hawaiians were more likely than most Americans to practice healthy behaviors. More than 62% of residents in the state exercised regularly last year, more than in any state except for Vermont. Also, 59.6% of residents regularly ate fruits and vegetables, higher than a majority of states. Residents were among the most emotionally healthy Americans, leading the nation in the percentage of respondents who smiled or laughed, or learned something new within the last day. While more than a dozen states ranked higher in physical health, life expectancy at birth in Hawaii was 81.3 years as of 2010, the highest in the nation. Incomes in Hawaii were largely higher than the rest of the U.S., and the state’s 4.5% unemployment rate in December was among the nation’s lowest. However, many Hawaiians were unhappy with their work environment. Just 47.8% of respondents felt treated like a partner at work, the second-worst rate in the U.S.

7. Colorado
> Well-being index score: 68.9
> Life expectancy: 80.0 years (11th highest)
> Pct. obese: 20.4% (2nd lowest)
> Median household income: $56,765 (14th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 90.6% (12th highest)

Physical health was among the most important factors contributing to Colorado’s high well-being score. Colorado had the second lowest obesity rate in the nation in 2013. Additionally, just 7% of the state’s population had been diagnosed with diabetes as of last year, less than in any other state. State residents were also among the least likely to have had a heart attack. The high marks for good health may have something to do with the population’s healthy behaviors. Less than 18% of Colorado residents smoked last year, and almost 60% exercised regularly, both among the best marks in the nation. Respondents from the state were also generally upbeat about their future, giving strong evaluations of both their present lives and their expectations for the next five years.

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6. Vermont
> Well-being index score: 69.1
> Life expectancy: 80.5 years (5th highest)
> Pct. obese: 24.8% (12th lowest)
> Median household income: $52,977 (20th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 91.7% (tied-5th highest)

Nowhere in the U.S. were residents more likely to practice healthy behaviors than in Vermont. Almost 72% of respondents in the state ate healthy all day within the past day, and more than 65% of residents stated they exercised regularly — both higher than any other state. Additionally, 67.8% of residents had eaten five servings of fruits and vegetables at least four times a week, also more than any other state. Unsurprisingly, Vermont residents surveyed were among the most likely to report being physically healthy. As for the state’s labor market, despite slow economic growth in 2012, the state’s unemployment rate was just 4.2% last December, among the lowest in the U.S. Residents were also more likely than most Americans to enjoy the environment in which they worked. Nearly 92% of adults aged 25 and up had a high school diploma in 2012, among the top figures nationwide.

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