Special Report

The Happiest (and Most Miserable) Cities in America

In the United States Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of happiness is considered an inalienable right of all Americans. But finding happiness and fulfillment is no easy feat, and the likelihood of doing so can vary a great deal depending on your place of residence.

The odds of finding happiness is measured annually by the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which polls more than 350,000 people across nearly 200 metropolitan areas. The index measures whether individuals feel a sense of purpose, have supportive relationships, are financially secure, satisfied with their community, and are in good physical health.

Well-being in the United States reached a low point last year. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, said “[This] is the first time that we’ve had such substantial drops across much of the country in well-being.” Not since the recession year of 2009 had there been such declines in well-being. While well-being improved in four states in 2009, no state improved last year.

The picture is more nuanced within states, where there are plenty of communities that — while not reporting record-breaking improvements — remain home to some of the nation’s most contented residents.

Across the dozens of questions used to gauge the general well-being of Americans, several stand out as the most basic measures of well-being. Liking what you do on a day-to-day basis is one such measure. Approximately three in four people nationwide agree they are doing something they like everyday. Even a higher share of adults like what they do in all but two of the top 25 metro areas. Such a sense of purpose is considerably lower in low well-being areas.

For the social aspect of well-being the Gallup-Sharecare poll asked whether or not your friends and family give you positive energy and support on a regular basis. Such social connections are critical to happiness, said Witters. Nationwide, approximately 75% of adults report such strong social connections. The share is higher in 18 of the 25 happiest cities, and in seven of them it is greater than 80%.

Financial stability and money management are also important to well-being. Gallup asked respondents whether they have enough money to do everything they want to do. In 22 of the 25 happiest cities, the share of residents who report having enough money is larger than the 43% of Americans who report such financial security. The opposite is generally true in low well-being cities.

Click here to see the happiest cities in America.
Click here to see the most miserable cities in America.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

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