Special Report

America’s Most Content (and Miserable) States

America’s Most Miserable States

10. Louisiana
> Well-being index score: 64.9
> Life expectancy: 75.7 years (4th lowest)
> Pct. obese: 32.7% (4th highest)
> Median household income: $42,944 (8th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 83.0% (4th lowest)

Louisiana residents suffered from limited access to basic needs. Last year, nearly 9% of those surveyed in the state noted they did not have easy access to clean and safe drinking water, while nearly 12% of residents lacked easy access to medicine, both among the worst rates in the nation. Just 61.4% of respondents felt safe walking home alone at night, the lowest rate in the U.S., and significantly lower than the national rate of more than 70% who felt safe in the same circumstances. Louisiana also ranked among the lowest in healthy behaviors because of its residents’ high smoking rate and limited healthy eating. As of 2010, there were 229.4 deaths due to heart disease per 100,000 people in the state, fourth-highest nationally. That same year, life expectancy at birth in the state was just 75.7 years, one of the worst figures in the nation.

9. Oklahoma
> Well-being index score: 64.7
> Life expectancy: 75.9 years (5th lowest)
> Pct. obese: 30.5% (10th highest)
> Median household income: $44,312 (10th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 86.7% (19th lowest)

Oklahomans had among the most unhealthy behaviors in the U.S. during 2013. Only about half of the population said they ate fruits and vegetables on a regular basis last year, less than any other state. Oklahoma residents also reported poor access to basic necessities. More than 10% of residents said they did not have easy access to clean and safe drinking water, worse than any other state. Oklahomans also self-reported poor physical health. More than 6% of adults said they have had a heart attack as of last year, more than in any other state, and considerably higher than the national average of 3.8%. In 2010, there were 235.2 heart disease-related deaths per 100,000 residents, the third-highest rate nationwide.

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8. Missouri
> Well-being index score: 64.5
> Life expectancy: 77.5 years (11th lowest)
> Pct. obese: 29.0% (14th highest)
> Median household income: $45,321 (14th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 88.0% (23rd lowest)

The economic confidence of Missouri residents improved considerably between between 2012 and 2013. Despite this, respondents had some of the worst outlooks about their lives in 2013. Just one half of residents surveyed said they were thriving last year, among the lowest rates in the nation. With a high number of residents experiencing stress, as well as a relatively low number reporting having smiled or laughed within the last day, Missouri ranked among the worst states for emotional health.

7. Tennessee
> Well-being index score: 64.3
> Life expectancy: 76.3 years (8th lowest)
> Pct. obese: 31.3% (7th highest)
> Median household income: $42,764 (7th lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 85.1% (13th lowest)

Tennessee residents were among the most likely to have a variety of physical health problems in 2013, including diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and chronic pain. People living in Tennessee were also less likely to feel safe walking at night than residents of many other states. The state’s violent crime rate of 643.6 incidents per 100,000 residents was the highest in the nation in 2012 and may justify these fears. Economic confidence in the state was among the worst last year. This was despite the fact that the state’s economy grew by 3.3% in 2012, one of the largest growth rates that year.

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6. Arkansas
> Well-being index score: 64.3
> Life expectancy: 76.0 years (tied-6th lowest)
> Pct. obese: 32.3% (5th highest)
> Median household income: $40,112 (2nd lowest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 84.8% (9th lowest)

Arkansas rated as one of the most physically unhealthy states as of 2013, ranking behind just two other states. Only 71.8% of residents were able to partake in age-appropriate activities, among the lowest rates in the nation, while 36.8% of respondents reported high blood pressure, one the highest figures of any state. More than 32% of respondents were obese last year, compared to 27% nationally.. Arkansas had 222.5 heart disease-related deaths per 100,000 residents in 2010, fifth highest in the nation. Healthy behaviors in the state, as well as access to basic needs, were also rated lower than most other states. Likely contributing to the state’s low rank in many of these measures is its large poor population. Nearly 20% of all people in the state lived below the poverty line in 2012, fourth highest in the nation.

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