Special Report

America's Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

7. Tennessee
> Poverty rate: 17.8% (12th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.2% (10th highest)
> Obesity rate: 33.7% (4th highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 3.7 (24th lowest)

Tennessee residents were among the least likely Americans to exercise routinely in 2013, with more than 37% of respondents reporting zero physical activity in the last 30 days, the second worst proportion in the country. Lack of exercise may have contributed to the state’s obesity rate, which was nearly 34% in 2013, the fourth highest compared to other states. Even though residents had relatively unhealthy habits, they were the least likely to binge drink, with less than one in 10 adults reporting such drinking habits. A typical Tennessean household earned $40,511 in 2013, the second lowest median household income nationwide. People living in the Volunteer State also likely did not feel as safe as many other Americans. Nearly 580 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 people in the state, the fourth highest rate in the country.

6. Alabama
> Poverty rate: 18.7% (7th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (18th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 32.4% (8th highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 4.4 (4th highest)

Alabama residents had nearly the highest incidence of both high cholesterol and high blood pressure in 2013, as well as an obesity rate of 32.4% — one of the highest rates nationwide. As in other states with poor physical health measures such as these, heart disease was relatively more common. There were more than 228 heart disease-related deaths per 100,000 residents in Alabama, the third highest rate nationwide and considerably higher than the national rate of less than 170 per 100,000 Americans. On Gallup’s index, state residents were less likely than most Americans to like and feel safe in the place they lived. Like other states faring poorly in the community element of well-being, many Alabama households lacked basic services. For example, only 63.5% of households had broadband Internet access, the third lowest proportion nationwide. In addition, there were 418 violent crimes reported per 100,000 people, far higher than the national rate of 367 crimes per 100,000 Americans.

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5. Mississippi
> Poverty rate: 24.0% (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.6% (6th highest)
> Obesity rate: 35.1% (2nd highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 4.3 (7th highest)

With the lowest income and highest poverty rate in the country, it is not surprising to find Mississippi in the bottom five states for well-being. Mississippi’s median household income of $37,963 in 2013 was nearly $15,000 less than the national median, and the state’s 24% poverty rate was much higher than the national rate of 16%. Still, despite being financially worse-off, residents did not turn to drinking. The Magnolia State had the fifth lowest binge drinking rate, with 12.4% of adults reporting having four or more alcoholic beverages on one occasion. Mississippians have the highest rate of premature death, with an estimated total of more than 10,000 years lost before age 75 per 100,000 residents. State residents were also not especially healthy. In 2013, Mississippi had the highest heart disease death rate, the lowest rate of physical activity among adults, as well as the lowest rate of adolescent immunization.

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