Special Report

America's Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

4. Wyoming
> Poverty rate: 10.9% (6th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.6% (6th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 27.8% (21st lowest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 3.2 (9th lowest)

Wyoming residents rated their lives last year much better than they did in 2013, when the state ranked near the bottom. This was also the largest improvement among all states. Wyoming residents had among the most supportive and loving relationships last year, faring better than every other state except for South Dakota in Gallup’s social element of well-being. Strong relationships likely played a major role in the well-being of residents. Like other states excelling in this category, Wyoming residents rated their communities very well — residents liked where they lived and felt safe. There were less than 200 violent crimes reported per 100,000 residents in 2013, the fourth lowest crime rate in the country. Wyoming residents also benefited from a strong job market. In 2013, less than 5% of the workforce was unemployed, the sixth lowest rate nationwide. In addition, while nearly 16% of Americans lived in poverty in 2013, less than 11% of Wyoming residents lived in poverty, a lower rate than in all but a handful of states.

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3. South Dakota
> Poverty rate: 14.2% (23rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.8% (2nd lowest)
> Obesity rate: 29.9% (21st highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 2.5 (the lowest)

South Dakota received high rankings in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, scoring as one of the top five states in four of the five essential elements of well-being. The Mount Rushmore State scored highest in the social and community categories. In 2013, 91.6% of adults had at least a high school diploma, the sixth highest ranking in the country. In the same year, the state reported the fewest poor physical as well as poor mental health days. South Dakota also had the lowest percentage of adults reporting insufficient sleep. The median household income in South Dakota was $48,947 in 2013, below the national median household income of $52,250. Also in 2013, 12.5% of state residents relied on food stamps, compared with the national percentage of 13.5%.

2. Hawaii
> Poverty rate: 10.8% (5th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.8% (8th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 21.8% (2nd lowest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 2.7 (2nd lowest)

Hawaii is one of only two top 10 states to have among the highest well-being every year since Gallup started surveying Americans in 2008. This year, Hawaii residents had the second best overall well-being, leading the nation in Gallup’s physical health category. Hawaiians reporting having less than three poor mental health days per month on average in 2013, one of the lowest figures in the country. The state also led the nation in the financial element of well-being, with a typical household earning $68,020 in 2013, the fourth highest median household income nationwide. Hawaii, however, had the nation’s highest cost of living in 2012, with goods and services costing residents roughly 17% more than the national average cost of living. Residents also benefited from a strong job market — Hawaii had an unemployment rate of just 4.8% in 2013, versus the national rate of 7.4%.

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1. Alaska
> Poverty rate: 9.3% (2nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (18th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 28.4% (23rd lowest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 3.1 (7th lowest)

Alaska reached the top spot in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for the first time since the survey began in 2008. The Last Frontier State ranked in the top seven of states in all of the categories reviewed, leading the nation in the purpose element of well-being. Alaskans had one of the longest average workweeks in the country — 35.2 hours in 2013 — and the second highest median household income, at $72,237. Alaskans clearly felt good about themselves: they reported 3.1 poor mental health days in 30 days preceding the survey, the seventh lowest figure in the nation. Residents also had relatively low rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. Alaskans had healthy eating habits with among the lowest rates of adults consuming less than one helping of vegetables daily. Only 22.3% of Alaskans reported no physical activity outside of work, eighth lowest in the nation. Despite some healthy lifestyle indicators, Alaska ranked among the worst states in the nation for binge drinking, adult smokers and immunization rates for children and adolescents.

Click here to see the most miserable states in America

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