Special Report

America’s 18 Most Miserable States

Happiness and sadness are influenced by factors that vary from person to person. They may also frequently change, depending on an endless set of dynamic circumstances, including social, financial, and health factors. While the emotion itself may be difficult to quantify at an individual level, the well-being of a population can be easier to measure using several objective and subjective factors known to lead to better — or worse — overall well-being.

To determine the saddest U.S. states, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the 2019 Gallup Well-Being Index, which is based on responses from more than 115,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older surveyed in 2019. The index is intended to capture how people feel about their lives and what they experience on a daily basis. The index consists of five categories: social relationships, financial security, relationship to community, physical health, and career prospects — these are 79 jobs with six figure salaries.

The overall well-being in the United States has been in steady decline since 2016. The national Well-Being Index score decreased almost 1 point since then, falling to 61.2 in 2018. What played the biggest role in the decline of people’s happiness was the erosion of social and career well-being. The 18 states on the list all have a well-being score lower than 61.2 — here are the states with the best and worst economies.

All but two of the 18 most miserable states have median household incomes far below the national median income of $65,712 in 2019. The states with the saddest residents have relatively high shares of adult residents who report regularly worrying about money or not having enough money to do everything they want to do.

The vast majority of the most miserable states in the country have among the lowest shares of residents who learn something new or engage in an interesting activity on a daily basis or who like what they do every day.

Click here for the 18 most miserable states in the U.S.
Click here for our detailed methodology