America’s Most Content (and Miserable) States

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5. Montana
> Well-being index score: 69.3
> Life expectancy: 78.5 years (21st lowest)
> Pct. obese: 19.6% (the lowest)
> Median household income: $45,076 (12th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 92.8% (the highest)

Economic confidence in Montana was exceptionally bad in 2013, among the 10 worst states. Despite that, residents gave high ratings to their work environment. Nearly 94% of adults said they were satisfied with their job, the highest percentage nationally. This was likely due, in part, to feeling fully utilized at work — 89% of respondents said they used their strengths during the work day, more than all but one other state. Montana residents also practiced healthy behavior more than residents of most other states. A majority of the population reported healthy eating habits, weekly exercise routines, and lower than average smoking rate in 2013. Montana residents were also the least likely to be obese last year.

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4. Minnesota
> Well-being index score: 69.7
> Life expectancy: 81.1 years (2nd highest)
> Pct. obese: 22.0% (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $58,906 (9th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 92.5% (2nd highest)

Minnesotans reported exceptional physical health in 2013. More than 81% of respondents were able to partake in age-appropriate activities, tied for the highest percentage in the U.S. Residents were also among the least likely Americans to report being obese. No state had fewer heart disease-related deaths per 100,000 residents than Minnesota in 2010. People surveyed in the state were also exceptionally likely to report having basic access to critical necessities, including medicine, and fruits and vegetable. Residents, were also among the most likely Americans to report they had adequate money for food, shelter, and health care. Minnesota’s median income of $58,906 in 2012 was one of the highest in the U.S. Also, 92.5% of adults 25 and over had a high school diploma — among the best in the nation. The state’s economy, too, grew at a rapid 3.5% clip in 2012, greatly outpacing the nation as a whole.

3. Nebraska
> Well-being index score: 69.7
> Life expectancy: 79.8 years (15th highest)
> Pct. obese: 27.1% (25th highest)
> Median household income: $50,723 (25th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 90.5% (tied-13th highest)

Nebraska had some of the nation’s highest scores for both emotional and physical health. Residents were among the least likely to be depressed last year, trailing only North Dakota and New Jersey. More than 81% of residents did not have any health problems preventing them from age-appropriate activities, tied with Minnesota for the best nationwide in 2013. One factor improving Nebraskans’ well-being was likely their high quality living conditions. More residents were satisfied with their city than those in any other state, and most believed their city was improving overall. People in Nebraska were more confident about the future of the U.S. economy than residents of nearly all other states.

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2. South Dakota
> Well-being index score: 70.0
> Life expectancy: 79.5 years (tied-18th highest)
> Pct. obese: 28.3% (17th highest)
> Median household income: $48,362 (22nd lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 90.5% (tied-13th highest)

Respondents from South Dakota were among the most likely people in the U.S. to report good emotional health. More than 86% of those surveyed reported smiling or laughing within the past 24 hours, second-highest in the U.S. Meanwhile, 90% reported enjoying a large portion of their day, and more than 93% felt happy during the previous 24 hours, both more than any other state. The state’s 3.6% unemployment rate in December tied for the second lowest in the U.S. Not only did much of the workforce have a job, but also people in the state were more likely to enjoy their work environment than residents of any other state except for neighboring North Dakota.

1. North Dakota
> Well-being index score: 70.0
> Life expectancy: 79.5 years (tied-18th highest)
> Pct. obese: 26.0% (24th lowest)
> Median household income: $53,585 (19th highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 91.7% (tied-5th highest)

Due in large part to profitable oil discoveries in the region, North Dakota’s economy grew by more than 13% in 2012, by far the fastest growth nationwide. The state’s unemployment rate has also been very low in recent years, clocking in at 2.6% in December compared with 6.7% nationally. With such low unemployment, it’s perhaps not surprising that economic confidence levels in the state were among the highest 10 in the country. More than nine in 10 adults were satisfied with their jobs in 2013, one of several reasons the state’s residents rated their work environment best in the nation. Supervisors in the state were more likely to treat their subordinates as partners than in any other state. With good wages and plenty of jobs, the vast majority of residents had enough money for adequate shelter, food, and medicine. The proportion of respondents that were satisfied with their city and believed it was improving, however, was less than the national average.

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