America’s Most Content (and Miserable) Cities

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5. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, N.C.
> Well-Being Index score: 62.2
> Pct. adults with college degree: 16.7%
> Pct. smokers: 30.1%
> Median household income: $37,364

Roughly 51% of residents in the Hickory region of North Carolina were considered to be struggling, based on self-evaluations of their current lives and futures, compared to just 44% of Americans. Residents were less optimistic about their futures than respondents in all but seven other cities. About 19% said they did not have enough energy to keep pace with their daily lives within the previous 24 hours, which was close to last nationwide. Additionally, only 77.4% said they had not been sad within the past 24 hours, among the lowest rates in the nation. Possibly adding to the unhappiness of residents was the area’s economy. The median household income was just $37,364 in 2012, among the lowest in the country.

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4. Spartanburg, S.C.
> Well-Being Index score: 62.2
> Pct. adults with college degree: 20.5%
> Pct. smokers: 27.5%
> Median household income: $40,879

Spartanburg residents were among the poorest and unhappiest in the nation. Only 45.9% of people surveyed said they were especially happy about their current lives or future prospects, which ranks among the lowest in the nation. Few places had worse scores than Spartanburg for overall emotional health. Area residents were among the most likely Americans to report being depressed or angry. A large proportion of the residents were struggling financially. The median household income was $40,879 in 2012, among the lowest in the country. In many cases, residents did not have enough money for basic needs. Only a little more than 73% of respondents said they had enough money for food at all times in the previous 12 months, and 72.5% said they had enough money for health care and medicine. Both were among the worst figures in the nation.

3. Redding, Calif.
> Well-Being Index score: 62.0
> Pct. adults with college degree: 18.2%
> Pct. smokers: 20.4%
> Median household income: $45,442

Redding area residents had exceptionally negative evaluations of their lives, with 6.8% describing themselves as suffering, the highest of any metro area. Limited job opportunities may be one factor. The unemployment rate in the area, which was nearly 14% at the end of 2011, had not fallen below 10% as of the end of last year. Residents were also among the least emotionally healthy. Just 87% of respondents said they were treated with respect in the last 24 hours, less than in every other area reviewed last year. Respondents also reported higher rates of depression than almost anywhere else in the country. One possible explanation for this may be Redding’s violent crime rate of more than 723 per 100,000 people in 2012, one of the highest in the nation.

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2. Charleston, W.Va.
> Well-Being Index score: 60.0
> Pct. adults with college degree: 23.0%
> Pct. smokers: 34.3%
> Median household income: $47,610

Charleston area residents were exceptionally unhappy with their jobs, giving their work environments some of the worst marks in the nation. Nearly 19% of respondents were not satisfied with their jobs in 2013, the highest rate in the nation. And roughly 26% believed they did not use their strengths at work, also the highest in the nation. Respondents’ emotional health was also among the poorest in the nation. Only 81.2% said they had not been angry for much of the past 24 hours, the worst rate in the nation. Additionally, 27.2% said they had been told by a medical professional they had depression, the second-highest percentage in the country. Residents’ physical health was similarly poor. The area ranked in the top five for the percentage of people who suffered from both diabetes and high blood pressure. And 7% of those surveyed stated they had previously suffered a heart attack, nearly twice the national rate of 3.8%.

1. Huntington-Ashland, W.Va.-Ky.-Ohio
> Well-Being Index score: 59.5
> Pct. adults with college degree: 19.0%
> Pct. smokers: 29.2%
> Median household income: $39,160

The Huntington metro area was the worst rated in the nation by a number of measures. Respondents were the most likely Americans to report physical health problems, with exceptionally high rates of diabetes, cancer diagnoses, and chronic pain. More than 34.4% reported high cholesterol, and 46.9% reported high blood pressure last year, both the most of any metro area and perhaps leading to the high rate of heart attacks reported. Nearly one in 10 people surveyed stated they had previously suffered a heart attack, more than in any other area. Nearly 40% reported they were obese last year, the highest rate in the nation. Similarly, no metro area scored worse for emotional health than Huntington, where residents were more likely to say they felt worried or depressed than anywhere else in America. Residents also had lower overall evaluations of their current lives and future prospects than respondents in any other metro area.

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