America’s Happiest (and Most Miserable) States

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41. Rhode Island
> Residents who like what they do every day: 74.3% (24th lowest)
> Residents w/ a strong social relationship: 68.5% (the lowest)
> Residents in near perfect physical health: 56.2% (14th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.8% (22nd lowest)
> Violent crime rate: 238.9 per 100,000 (8th lowest)

While some states in the New England regions, like New Hampshire and Vermont, rank among the states with the highest levels of well-being, nearby Rhode ranks among the lowest. Having a sense of purpose is the most important component of personal well-being, and no state ranks lower in sense of purpose than Rhode Island. Just 50.8% of adults in the state have a leader in their life who makes them feel enthusiastic about the future, the smallest share of any state and well below the comparable 59.5% U.S. share. Similarly, only 48.8% of respondents in the state reached most of their goals in the last year, and 60.4% claim to learn or do something interesting every day — each the third smallest shares among states.

Unfulfilling social connections may undermine residents’ sense of purpose. Just 69.9% of adults in the state get positive energy from friends and family every day, the smallest share of any state.

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42. Indiana
> Residents who like what they do every day: 73.9% (17th lowest)
> Residents w/ a strong social relationship: 76.2% (11th highest)
> Residents in near perfect physical health: 51.4% (8th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.1% (21st highest)
> Violent crime rate: 404.7 per 100,000 (20th highest)

Indiana residents’ overall well-being is undermined in part by a relatively weak connection to the community. Just 62.2% of adults in the state are proud of their community, a smaller share than in the vast majority of states. Without pride in one’s community, the desire to improve it also may be weak. Just 18.4% of survey respondents in the state report receiving recognition for helping to improve their town or community in the last year, the fourth smallest share among states.

Physical health is also an important part of overall well-being, and a relatively large share of Indiana residents are unhealthy. Just 51.4% of adults in the state assess their own physical health as near perfect, the eighth smallest share among states. Similarly, just 64.2% of adults in the state have felt happy and productive in each of the last seven days, the sixth smallest share of any state.

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43. Nevada
> Residents who like what they do every day: 73.5% (13th lowest)
> Residents w/ a strong social relationship: 74.0% (12th lowest)
> Residents in near perfect physical health: 50.7% (7th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.8% (23rd highest)
> Violent crime rate: 678.1 per 100,000 (3rd highest)

A strong sense of community can go a long way to support personal well-being, but relatively few residents in Nevada feel a close connection to their community. Only 59.4% of respondents are proud of their community, the fourth smallest share of any state. Community pride across the state may be undercut by perceptions of danger. Just 69.5% of adults in the state always feel safe and secure, the second smallest share of any state. Concerns over safety are not unwarranted. There are 678 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in Nevada per year, well above the U.S. violent crime rate of 397 per 100,000.

Well-being in Nevada is further undermined by fewer strong personal relationships. For example, just 71.9% of adults get positive energy from friends and family every day, the fifth smallest share of any state.

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44. Ohio
> Residents who like what they do every day: 71.8% (5th lowest)
> Residents w/ a strong social relationship: 73.1% (7th lowest)
> Residents in near perfect physical health: 52.0% (12th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.6% (18th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 300.3 per 100,000 (18th lowest)

A sense of purpose is perhaps the most critical pillar of personal well-being, and a relatively large share of Ohio adults are missing a sense of purpose. For example, just 71.8% of adults in the state like what they do every day, and only 64.4% use their strengths daily to realize their full potential, the fifth and third smallest shares of any state respectively.

Ohio residents are also among the least likely Americans to feel a close connection to their community. Just 59.2% of survey respondents in the state agree that their community or city is the perfect place for them, a considerably smaller share than the 63.7% of Americans who do. Adults in Ohio are also relatively unlikely to make efforts to improve their neighborhoods. Only 17.3% of respondents in the Buckeye State have received recognition in the last year for improving their community, the second smallest share of any state.

45. Kentucky
> Residents who like what they do every day: 70.6% (2nd lowest)
> Residents w/ a strong social relationship: 76.0% (12th highest)
> Residents in near perfect physical health: 48.4% (3rd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (4th highest)
> Violent crime rate: 232.3 per 100,000 (7th lowest)

Using your strengths and enjoying what you do every day can greatly contribute to a sense of purpose — one of the most important pillars of personal well-being. In Kentucky, just 70.6% of adults like what they do every day, and 63.3% use their strengths to maximize their potential every day — the second smallest and smallest shares of any state, respectively. The relatively weak sense of purpose may partially explain the prevalence of depression in the state. Some 23% of respondents in Kentucky have had a depression in their lifetime, the fourth largest share of any state.

In addition, many also likely suffer from poor physical health. Only 48.4% of respondents in Kentucky assess their own physical health as near-perfect, the third smallest share of any state. Suboptimal health, for many, may be attributable to unhealthy habits. For example, just 57.4% of adults in the state eat healthily all day, the third smallest share of any state.