Study: Hawaii is the happiest state in America

September 24, 2020

During a pandemic, the grass is always greener on the other side: Wherever you live, you wonder whether somewhere else—anywhere—might offer a safer and more stable lifestyle.

So where’s the best place to live in the United States? Not on the mainland, according to results of a WalletHub study released on September 22—which ranked the naturally socially distanced islands of Hawaii as the Happiest State in America.

Filling out the top ten on the list were Utah, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, California, North Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, and Connecticut, according to a report by Travel+Leisure.

“Happiness is a feeling of joy, contentment, and overall positive emotions,” Dr. Chieh-Chen Bowen of Cleveland State University’s Psychology Department is quoted in a WalletHub press release.. “Happiness is a universal goal. We all want to be happy and want such feelings to last.”

To attempt to best measure happiness, WalletHub used three dimensions on a 100-point scale, weighting “emotional and physical well-being” with 50 points and “work environment” and “community and environment” with 25 points each.

While Hawaii ranked number one overall, it came in second for “emotional and physical well-being,” after New Jersey; and third for “community and environment,” following Utah and Idaho. Meanwhile, it snagged the number 16 spot for “work and environment,” with Utah and Idaho also topping that category.

The study also revealed top rankings in subcategories, with Minnesota coming out on top for the highest adequate sleep, New Jersey with the lowest share of adult depression, North Dakota with the lowest long-term unemployment rate, Utah with the highest volunteer rate, and Maine as the safest.

While WalletHub has been doing its Happiest States study since 2014, the financial site notes the particular circumstances of the year making a difference. “In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life as we know it, causing sickness, limiting social interactions, and leading to widespread job losses,” WalletHub’s Adam McCann wrote. “During these trials, which have had a strong negative impact on Americans’ mental health, WalletHub searched for the states where people can stay positive despite the circumstances.”

The bottom of the list starts with Missouri in 40th place, followed by Oregon, Alaska, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and West Virginia, which landed in the last spot.

Before lockdowns started spreading in March, WalletHub also released the results of its Happiest Cities in America study, which used similar metrics. Fremont, California; Plano, Texas; San Jose, California; Irvine, California; and Madison, Wisconsin made the top five. The top-ranking Hawaiian city was Pearl City in the tenth slot, with Honolulu also on the list at number 56.

As a state, this isn’t the first contentment study that Hawaii has topped. For seven years, it also placed first in Gallup’s overall well-being rankings.

Research contact: @TravelLeisure

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