Special Report

The Happiest (and Most Miserable) Cities in America

The Happiest Cities in America.

Source: VISALIA2010 / Wikimedia Commons

25. Visalia-Porterville, CA
> Poverty rate: 27.6%
> Obesity rate: 29.5%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 395.8
> 5-year pop. change: 3.8%

A strong economy can have a positive impact on people’s well-being, but economic conditions are not the sole determinant of a region’s overall well-being. In the Visalia-Porterville metro area, more than one in four residents live in poverty and the area’s unemployment rate is at a near nation leading 10.9%. Despite the relatively poor economic conditions, area residents report higher levels of well-being than those in most metro areas as other factors add to their overall well-being. For example, 83.2% of area residents surveyed get positive energy from friends and family, the highest share of any metro area in the country, and 82.4% like what they do every day, the fifth highest share in the country.

San Antonio Texas Skyline
Source: Thinkstock

24. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX
> Poverty rate: 14.6%
> Obesity rate: 28.5%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 436.9
> 5-year pop. change: 10.7%

Of Gallup’s five categories of well-being — physical, financial, community, social, and purpose — residents of the San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area rank highest in sense of purpose. Nearly four of every five surveyed residents like they like what they do every day, and 72% get to use their strengths on a daily basis, each some of the highest such percentages nationwide. San Antonio residents also benefit from strong social connections. Nearly 80% of surveyed metro area residents have someone in their lives who encourages them to be healthy, a larger share than the 75% national average.

Des Moines Iowa
Source: Thinkstock

23. Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA
> Poverty rate: 10.7%
> Obesity rate: 29.8%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 367.5
> 5-year pop. change: 8.9%

Des Moines metro area residents are less likely to report regular sadness than the typical American. Only 13.2% of those polled in the area reported feeling sad compared to some 17.5% of Americans. The relative happiness of the population may be attributable to strong personal relationships and financial security. About 80% of residents polled report that their relationship with their partner or closest friend is stronger than ever compared to 76.6% of Americans. Additionally, the Des Moines metro area is one of only 11 nationwide where over half of all survey respondents have enough money do everything they want.

La Jolla Wave Crash, San Diego, California
Source: Thinkstock

22. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA
> Poverty rate: 13.8%
> Obesity rate: 20.2%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 331.8
> 5-year pop. change: 6.3%

Home to well over 3 million people, the San Diego metro area is one of the largest in the country. It is also one of the happiest. Residents’ physical health likely plays a considerable role in overall well-being. San Diego residents are more likely to exercise and eat healthy the average American. Partially as a result, only 20.2% of area residents are obese, nearly the smallest share in the country, and 61.9% report being in near peak physical health, nearly the largest share of any U.S. metro area.

San Diego residents are also proud of their city. Nearly 72% of metro area survey respondents agree that where they lived is the perfect place for them, compared to only 63% of Americans.

Old Well at UNC-CH in the Springtime, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Source: Thinkstock

21. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
> Poverty rate: 15.9%
> Obesity rate: 26.2%
> Violent crimes per 100,000: N/A
> 5-year pop. change: 8.7%

A larger share of Durham-Chapel Hill residents report having healthy, positive relationships in their lives than nearly any other metro area. More than four in five surveyed residents believe their friends and family give them positive energy, and 79.3% report having someone in their lives who encourages them to be healthy — some of the largest shares of any metro area. Such encouragement may be having a positive effect, as Durham-Chapel Hill residents are also among the healthiest of any metro area. According to Gallup’s survey, people living in Durham-Chapel Hill are more likely to maintain healthy diets and exercise regularly than the typical American.

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