Special Report

America's Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

The Most Miserable States in America

10. Missouri
> Poverty rate: 15.9% (23rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (18th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 30.4% (17th highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 3.8 (21st highest)

Missouri fared poorly in all of Gallup’s elements of well-being. Overall, the state residents rated their well-being 10th lowest in the nation. While money and happiness are not directly related, financial stability is a major factor in the well-being of most Americans. As in most of the states with the unhappiest residents, Missouri residents have relatively low incomes. A typical household earned less than $47,000 in 2013, one of the lower incomes nationwide. However, living in Missouri is far less expensive than most states. Missouri ranked especially low in Gallup’s physical element. Unhealthy behaviors among residents were among the greatest contributors to Missouri’s low well-being score. More than 22% of adults smoked in 2013, for example, one of the highest smoking rates in the nation. Also, nearly 44% of residents consumed less than one serving of fruit daily, versus a national rate of 37.7% and higher than in all but a few other states.

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9. Michigan
> Poverty rate: 17.0% (15th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.8% (5th highest)
> Obesity rate: 31.5% (11th highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 3.9 (13th highest)

Michigan residents rated their day-to-day lives and motivation to pursue goals worse than most Americans, ranking near the bottom in Gallup’s purpose element of well-being. Like other states ranking poorly in this category, Michigan’s job market is relatively weak. In 2013, 8.8% of the workforce was unemployed, a higher rate than in all but four other states. Relatively poor physical health and unhealthy habits among residents also likely contributed to low well-being in the state. Nearly 19% of adults reported binge drinking in the last 30 days, an exceptionally high proportion compared to other states with low well-being.

8. Arkansas
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (4th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.5% (18th highest)
> Obesity rate: 34.6% (3rd highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 4.4 (4th highest)

Arkansas residents rated their physical health and ability to get things done daily nearly the worst in the nation on Gallup’s survey. Unhealthy habits led to poor health outcomes in the state. Nearly 26% of Arkansas residents smoked, nearly the highest rate in the country. Also, more than 34% reported not exercising routinely, nearly the worst rate nationwide. Lack of exercise may have contributed to the state’s obesity rate of nearly 35%, which was the third highest in the country. Residents were also poorly educated compared to those in other states. Less than 21% had completed at least a bachelor’s degree in 2013, the third lowest rate in the nation. Arkansas had a nation-leading 43.5 teenage birth rate per 1,000 15-19 year old female state residents. Arkansas residents were also not especially well-off financially. Nearly one in five residents lived in poverty in 2013 — much higher than the less than 16% national poverty rate, and a higher rate than in all but three other states.

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