Special Report

The Happiest (and Most Miserable) Cities in America

The Most Miserable Cities

10. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN
> Poverty rate: 14.5%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 7.2%
> Adult obesity rate: 29.6%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 285.2

Based on Gallup surveys conducted last year, Cincinnati metro area residents have the 10th lowest well-being compared to other large metro areas. The Cincinnati metro area is also one of five cities with the lowest well-being located in Ohio. The state has had among the 10 lowest state-level scores every year since Gallup began measuring well-being in 2008. As in several other areas with the lowest well-being where population growth is very low or even negative, Cincinnati’s population grew by 1.5% from July 2010 through July 2014, one of the slowest growth rates nationwide. Area residents also had relatively poor health indicators. The infant mortality rate, for example, was 8.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, one of the higher rates.

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9. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI
> Poverty rate: 16.9%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 9.9%
> Adult obesity rate: 31.5%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 569.6

Detroit’s 17-month bankruptcy, which ended last December, did not help the city’s status as the ninth lowest ranking state in the Gallup well-being survey. The city’s financial woes likely contributed to its relatively high violent crime rate of 569.6 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, one of the higher rates nationwide. As a consequence of the bankruptcy, city officials embarked on a campaign to collect past due water bills, which resulted in shutting off water to about 100,000 city residents. Also, an estimated 17.5% of residents used food stamps in the last 12 months, four percentage points above that national rate. One positive is the region’s improving unemployment rate. The December jobless rate of 6.5% was down significantly from a 17.2% peak in June-July 2009. Detroit’s rank is consistent with the rank for all of Michigan, which was the ninth most miserable state in a Gallup state-by-state comparison.

8. Columbus, OH
> Poverty rate: 14.8%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 6.5%
> Adult obesity rate: 30.2%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: N/A

The Columbus metro area is home of football-obsessed Ohio State University and is one of the most fanatical football cities. Even when the Buckeyes win, however, Columbus is one of the unhappiest cities in the country. About 14.6% of Columbus households used food stamps in the last 12 months compared with 13.5% nationally. Columbus also has a relatively high rate of people living with HIV, as well as a relatively high infant mortality rate. Despite these poor health indicators, about 14.2% of Columbus residents consider themselves to be in only fair or poor health, roughly in line with the countrywide figure. In addition, Columbus had an unemployment of 3.9% in December, uncharacteristically low compared to several other areas with low well-being scores.

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7. Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA
> Poverty rate: 15.5%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 9.1%
> Adult obesity rate: 29.9%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 232.2

The Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton metro area is one of just a few regions where the population declined from the middle of 2010 to the middle of last year, generally a bad sign both for an area’s economy and its well-being. Residents were not especially wealthy with a typical household income of $45,333, considerably lower than the national median household income. Despite this, less than 10% of residents did not have health insurance, one of the lower shares nationwide. And the December unemployment rate of 5.6% was slightly lower than that of the nation. Still, residents were on the whole relatively unhappy, due in part to prevalent unhealthy behaviors and outcomes. Nearly one-quarter of area adults reported a smoking habit, one of the higher rates. Also, more than one in five people living in Scranton drank excessively, a far higher proportion than in most metro areas.

6. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL
> Poverty rate: 16.2%
> 2013 unemployment rate: 7.9%
> Adult obesity rate: 27.2%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 392.7

An estimated 19.5% of Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach residents did not have health insurance, a situation exacerbated by the fact that 23.6% of the area’s population is 65 or older — a large percentage compared to other metro areas. About 22.4% of Deltona adults smoked, one of the higher rates in the country. About 18.4% of residents considered themselves to be in poor or only fair health, also one of the higher percentages nationwide. Not only do adults have unhealthy habits, putting themselves at risk, but also 25.1% of children lived in poverty, one of the higher rates in the country.

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