Special Report

America's Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

7. Nebraska
> Poverty rate: 13.2% (17th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.9% (3rd lowest)
> Obesity rate: 29.6% (24th highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 3.0 (6th lowest)

With an unemployment rate of 3.9% in 2013, the third lowest nationwide, Nebraska residents had the benefit of a relatively strong job market. Nebraskans were also more likely than most Americans to feel content with their jobs, rating their day-to-day contentment and motivation to meet goals — part of the purpose element of well-being — the seventh best nationwide. Workers also reported having just three poor mental health days per month in 2013, the sixth-lowest figure nationwide. While the median household income in Nebraska was slightly lower than the national figure, the cost of living was considerably more affordable than most states. As in most of the happiest states, Nebraska is also a relatively safe state. There were approximately 252 violent crimes per 100,000 people in 2013, one of the lower rates in the country.

6. Colorado
> Poverty rate: 13.0% (16th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.8% (25th highest)
> Obesity rate: 21.3% (the lowest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 3.3 (11th lowest)

Colorado retained its 2013 standing on the list of happiest states, with a particularly high ranking in the physical element of well-being this year. The state had the lowest diabetes rate of all states, ranked second lowest in the percentage of the population with high blood pressure, and ranked third lowest in the percentage of residents with high cholesterol. The state also had the lowest obesity rate in the country, at 21.3% of the adult population. Residents were also relatively well-off financially. The state’s 2013 median household income of $58,823 was the 12th highest in the country. In addition, only 8.6% of Colorado households received food stamp benefits in 2013. Colorado households also had better access to services such the Internet, as 79.4% of residents reported having a broadband Internet subscription, the fourth highest percentage in the country.

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5. Montana
> Poverty rate: 16.5% (19th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.6% (14th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 24.6% (6th lowest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 3.3 (11th lowest)

As in most states with the happiest residents, Montanans were well educated. Nearly 93% had completed at least high school as of 2013, the third highest rate and considerably higher than the national rate of 86.6%. Montana residents were in exceptionally good physical health, which likely significantly contributed to happiness. Less than one-quarter were obese in 2013, for example, the sixth-lowest rate nationwide. Residents also had relatively low rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. Residents were not especially wealthy, however, earning a median household income of $46,972 in 2013, lower than the national figure of $52,250.

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