A WalletHub study has researched and ranked which of the 50 United States are happiest. This study was survey-based and drew upon which environmental factors are linked to a person’s overall well-being and satisfaction with life.
To determine where Americans exhibit the best combination of these factors, they examined the 50 states across 31 key metrics, ranging from depression rate to sports participation rate to income growth. These metrics were simplified into three key dimensions: 1) Emotional & Physical Well-Being, 2) Work Environment and 3) Community & Environment.
All that said, here are the 2019 results for the fifty states, ranked in order from most happy to least happy.
Hawaii residents are most likely to say they love their lives, and this probably comes as a surprise to no one. Beautiful beaches and sunsets. Quiet, blissful lifestyle. Awe-inspiring waterfalls. What is not to love? Hawaii ranked the highest in the nationwide survey in emotional and physical health. It goes without saying that there is a reason millions of people a year choose Hawaii as a vacation destination.
One major factor contributing to Utah’s happiness level is its rank as number one for “fewest work hours”—in fact, it leads the nation in work environment. Utah also boasts the lowest divorce rate in the country.
This state is ranked high in all three of the main categories in this study. Minnesota has a strong reputation as a state full of very kind people—yes, it seems “Minnesota nice” is a real thing. It also has one of the lowest divorce rates and is considered a very safe state.
4. North Dakota
This Minnesota neighbor is ranked as one of the top states in both work environment and physical health and performs very well in emotional health as well. In terms of work environment morale, it's the number one state for income growth—a sure-fire way to make its citizens happier.
A state well-known for its young, hip lifestyle, it is no surprise that physical well-being is its greatest strength. Californians are also emotionally healthy; their state has the fifth-lowest rate of adult depression.
This one is a little bit of a surprise. Idaho is one of those states that is accepted as having nothing extra spectacular going for it. However, it ranked very high in work environment (#2) and community and environment (#1). Excelling in these two categories helps to make up for its middle-ranking in emotional and physical well-being (#24).
Maryland is known for having nice scenery, as long as you do not mind the occasional snowpocalypse or brush with a hurricane and seemingly endless traffic. It finished 5th in emotional and physical well-being and a promising 14th in community and environment, but earned a poor 38th in work environment. It, unfortunately, has one of the highest long-term unemployment rates. But another plus for Maryland is its rank as having the fourth lowest suicide rate.
Iowa ranked 16th in emotional and physical well-being and 10th in both work environment and community & environment. It did very well in “highest adequate sleep rate” and “highest volunteer rate” (both at 4th place) and “lowest long-term unemployment rate” (3rd).
9. South Dakota
South Dakotans are well-rested, which makes all the difference in a person’s happiness level; the state currently takes the prize for number one in adequate amounts of sleep. It also ranks 13th in work environment and an admirable 8th in community and environment.
Rounding out the top ten happiest states, Nebraska does not rank particularly high in work environment (17th) or community and environment (28th), but it does have a great rating for emotional and physical health, coming in at 10th in this category. It would appear that cornfields are good for the body and soul.
The land of cheese comes in at an admirable 11th place in happiness. Wisconsin does quite well in workplace environment (11th place) and it is also a safe state, coming in at 12th for safety rank among other states.
Emotional & physical well-being ranks number 9 in this state, but its average is seriously hurt by work environment scores, which ranked at number 40. But a major positive is that the state has the fifth-lowest suicide rate in the country.
13. New Jersey
New Jersey’s overall ranking was dragged down by work and environment (44th), and community and environment (38th). Some factors to work environment not performing well were: number of work hours, commute time, cost-of-living-adjusted income, underemployment rate, job security and income-growth rate. Despite those low rankings, New Jersey has the second-lowest rate of depression and lowest suicide rate in the country, which is amazing. And New Jersey fared very well overall because the emotional and physical well-being category rounded in exceptionally high at number 3 overall.
14. New York
American media leads us to believe that the people of New York are miserable, but in reality, they seem to be doing pretty well. Interestingly enough, it has the lowest rate of adult depression in the country. To reflect this statistic, emotional and physical well-being ranks at number 5 out of all states.
This state ranked 15th on the list overall according to the report. Virginia finished 15th in emotional and physical well-being, a middle-of-the-road 25th in work environment, and a so-so 27th in community and environment.
Massachusetts ranked fourth in the number of hours worked, third in its suicide rate, ninth in safety, 10th in income growth, 12th in separation and divorce, 22nd in adequate sleep rate and 27th in volunteer rate. The state was ranked 13th in its overall emotional well-being, 14th in its work environment, and 42nd in community and environment.
The state was ranked 17th for average happiness levels and made it into the top 10 for community and environment and workplace environment measures. Pulling the average score down, however, was the metric for emotional and physical well-being, where Washington ranked 29 — lower than average. Washington also ranked 10th in terms of safety, 11th for number of work hours and 16th for income growth.
Colorado was 19th in the overall emotional and physical well-being, 46th in the community and 3rd in work environment ranking. Colorado did well in the “adequate average sleep” ranking (2nd) and participation in sports (1st). Colorado also ranked fourth in the highest income growth. Colorado didn't rank among the top five in suicide rates in this study, but the state has an alarmingly high rate of people who take their own lives, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Colorado also has a high number of people who die from drug overdoses and alcohol.
The Peach State ranked 19th on the list overall according to WalletHub. Georgia finished a lackluster 25th in emotional and bodily well-being, 16th in work environment and a solid 7th in community and environment.
20. North Carolina
North Carolina ranks a decent 21st in work environment, as well as in emotional and physical well-being. Sadly, community and environment, however, rank quite a bit lower at 37th place.
Despite the stifling heat they deal with day to day, Arizonians appear to be relatively happy. Workplace morale weighs in at a good standing at 12th place out of all fifty states. But community and environment (34th) makes the state’s overall happiness score suffer.
Texas finished as the least safe state in the U.S. and their community and environment score is dismal as well, coming in second-lowest in the country. Fortunately, Texans seems to remain pretty healthy. Their score for well-being is a very solid 11th place. It has the fourth-lowest level of adult depression coupled with the fourth-highest work hours. Seems like Texans like their work.
Illinois faired well in the emotional and physical health category but was dragged down by work environment and community and environment. Looks like the workplace is much more of a curse to Illinoian’s happiness than the harsh Midwestern winters are.
24. New Hampshire
According to this study, this New England state generally promises a safe environment. It has the third-lowest violent crime rate in the country. Unfortunately, it comes in fifth from the bottom in terms of the rate of adult depression here.
How appropriate that the state at the center of the country also comes in at the center of the rankings. It ranks 22nd in emotional and physical well-being as well as 33rd in work environment and 36th in community.
Nevada ranks incredibly well in community and environment, coming in at an impressive 3rd place. It has decent marks in work environment too (15th place). Yet, it still comes in at 26th. Its emotional & physical well-being rating (#40) probably is a factor in its lackluster average happiness ranking.
According to the study, the community and environment category is where Delaware lacks the most. A contributor to Delaware’s poorer marks in the other categories could be their shorter average leisure time spent per day compared to most other states.
Montana seems like such a calm, pleasant state to reside in. It is unfortunate that their ratings for recent emotional and physical well-being are less than average (#37 out of 50). The good news, though, is that the work environment faired quite well in 7th place.
For all its sunshine and warm weather, apparently Florida isn’t such a hot place to live. Considering this state known for being where retirees flock to build vacation homes or relocate completely, it is surprising that it is not higher on the list. But coming in at #47 for community & environment likely does not help. And it is also one of the states with the highest long term unemployment rate.
Pennsylvania ranked 28th in Emotional and physical well-being, 41st in work environment and 15th in community and environment.
31. Rhode Island
This tiny state is tied for second place in the least hours worked, which is great and may free up time to enjoy its beautiful coastlines. But the beautiful sights do not cancel out its citizens' less-than-great work lives (#31) or help to boost their personal well-being (#30).
There is nothing too surprising here. Much like the state itself, Indiana takes a modest ranking for all criteria in this WalletHub study—between 22 and 30 for the three main categories.
The state most well-known for its lobster and lighthouses and colder weather has a high rank for work environment (10th), but emotional and physical health, as well as community and environment, are both ranked in the 30s. Still, not the worst it could be. There are still 17 more states to count down.
Michigan is a state that has a lot of natural beauty, but unfortunately, stories out of the state that don't involve sports have a lot to do with problems in Detroit and Flint, along with the shifting auto industry. So, perhaps not surprising that it ranks pretty low. Its highest rank was earned in community and environment (#20).
Not even the majesty of the Grand Tetons or Yellowstone could salvage this state from coming in lower than ideal in the happiness department. It has among the highest work hours and highest suicide rate—both at #48 out of 50. Work environment ranks at 43rd place, physical and emotional well-being at 31st and community and environment at 22nd.
36. South Carolina
Its community and environment rank is not too shabby, weighing in at number 13 in the list. But this east coast state could be performing better in the emotional and physical well-being and the work environment ratings, which come in at #38 and #32, respectively.
Apparently people from Ohio are always sleep-deprived. It ties for 46th worst when it comes to getting adequate sleep. The state was rated in the mid-30s for health and work environment and it came in 16th place for community and environment—the highest performing category for the state.
Another beautiful, cold state with a low ranking for community & environment (#48). This brings down the rating for the other two main categories which did not do too bad in comparison, receiving 26th and 23th ranking.
This one comes as a bit of a surprise. Oregon had the highest share of adult depression, despite it being the state we tend to associate with a fit and outdoorsy kind of lifestyle. It came in #43 on emotional & physical well-being. One positive here is that work environment ranked very very high (#4) compared to the rest of the state’s happiness level.
As with Oregon, work environment was the redeeming factor for Tennessee. It came in at #8 there. Sadly, everything else was in the 40s.
41. New Mexico
The fact that it is adjacent to Colorado (#18) and Arizona (#21) does not mean it scores nearly as well in happiness. New Mexico had poor rankings all across the board, and it comes in dead last for worst unemployment rate over time.
The scores for Missouri’s happiness are scattered all over the spectrum. It came in at 21st place for community and environment, 45th in emotional and physical well-being and ranked 34th for work environment.
Work environment especially was poor in Mississippi (#46). It also had the second-lowest sports participation rate in America, which isn’t that surprising—when is the last time anyone heard any news about sports teams from Mississippi? It didn’t do too bad in regards to community and environment though (#26).
For how far down the list this state is, it actually did okay in community and environment and work environment, receiving 19th place in both those categories. From an outsider perspective, Kentucky seems like it would be a good, healthy place to live, but according to this survey that is far from the truth. Ratings for emotional & physical well-being (#48) pulled Kentucky to the bottom of the list.
We are now getting down to the most unhappy of the unhappy. Across the board low rankings for Alabama, including emotional & physical well-being (#46) and community & environment (#43).
Oklahoma ranked in the bottom five results for six out of the WalletHub study's 31 metrics, including: sports and leisure participation (#48); share of adults feeling active and productive (#49); life expectancy (#46); job security (#48); economic confidence (#48); and safety (#48). Oklahoma ranked in the top five for two categories—income growth rate and public perception of the weather (both at #4), and also was in the top 10 for unemployment/underemployment.
Despite those crystal clear, bright blue waters you see in the pictures your aunt took on her cruise to Alaska, the state’s beautiful natural features don’t lessen other factors that bring a person’s quality of life down. Its work environment rank was #49 and community and environment came in dead last.