Special Report

America's Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

4. Ohio
> Poverty rate: 16.0% (21st highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.4% (20th highest)
> Obesity rate: 30.4% (17th highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 3.8 (21st highest)

Poor health and unhealthy habits among many Ohio residents were major contributors to the state’s low well-being. Nearly two in five adults reported getting insufficient sleep on a regular basis in 2013, one of the highest rates. Also, 23.4% of adults had a smoking habit in 2013, much higher than the 18.2% national smoking rate and one of the highest rates among states. While just 11% of state residents did not have health insurance in 2013 — a particularly low rate compared to the national rate and other states with low well-being — some medical services were severely lacking. Less than 62% of children aged 19 to 35 months had been vaccinated as of 2013, the third lowest proportion in the nation.

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3. Indiana
> Poverty rate: 15.9% (23rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.5% (18th highest)
> Obesity rate: 31.8% (9th highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 4.0 (11th highest)

Poor physical health and unhealthy habits were major factors contributing to Indiana’s low well-being. More than 27% of residents reported consuming less than one serving of vegetables daily, for example, and 31% reported no routine physical activity, both among the worst rates nationwide. The state also had an obesity rate of nearly 32% in 2013, the ninth highest rate in the country. Residents were also not especially well educated, with less than 24% having attained at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the lowest rates in the nation.

2. Kentucky
> Poverty rate: 18.8% (6th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.3% (7th highest)
> Obesity rate: 33.2% (5th highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 4.5 (the highest)

Despite being the home of Kentucky bourbon, the Bluegrass State had the 10th lowest binge drinking rate in the country. Particularly poor health data support Kentucky’s status as the state with the second lowest well-being. Kentucky led the nation in 2012 in cancer deaths per 100,000 people and had the second highest percentage of people with high cholesterol. It also had the second highest percentage of smokers in 2013. The state had the second-highest percentage of adults getting insufficient sleep, defined as fewer than seven hours per night. Kentucky’s unemployment rate remained high and unchanged in 2013, at 8.3%. Also, the median household income was $43,399 in 2013, fifth lowest in the nation.

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1. West Virginia
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (10th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (18th lowest)
> Obesity rate: 35.1% (tied–the highest)
> Poor mental health days (last 30 days): 4.4 (4th highest)

For the sixth consecutive year, West Virginia residents rated their well-being worse than residents of all other states. The state ranked dead last in two of the five elements of well-being identified by Gallup — the purpose and physical health categories. More than 35% of residents were considered obese in 2013, a higher rate than in all but one state. As in other states with high obesity rates, high cholesterol and high blood pressure were very common among residents, with 41% and 42.9% reporting such conditions respectively, both some of the highest rates nationwide. West Virginians also smoked cigarettes far more than most Americans, with more than 27% reporting the habit in 2013, the highest rate in the country. Like other unhappy states, West Virginia residents had relatively low educational attainment rates. Less than 19% had completed at least a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, the lowest rate in the nation. Residents were not especially wealthy. However, while a typical household earned $41,253 in 2013 — the third lowest median household income in the country — living in West Virginia was much more affordable than in the vast majority of states.

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