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Here Are The Happiest States

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July 29, 2020

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Here Are The Happiest States

Just like where you work and what you do, where you live can have major implications for your quality of life. Zippia set out to find the states where life is sweetest and the residents have the most to grin about. 

There are many factors that contribute to happiness and some of them are fairly intangible. Yet, external forces can strongly impact your state of mind. For example, while money can't buy happiness, it is impossible to be content if you don't know where you'll find your next meal. Spending 45 minutes on the interstate every day screaming at your fellow drivers to use their turn signals may not make you profoundly miserable, but it certainly isn't improving your life. With that in mind, Zippia examined the aspects of life that are evidence of unhappiness and that directly contribute to happiness.

All states were ranked equally by six factors: depression rate; median household income; unemployment; commute length; hours worked; and marriage rate. Data was gathered from the U.S. Census' American Community Survey, except for the data on depression rates, which came from Blue Cross' 2018 executive summary on depression in the nation. All data points were gathered prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had an impact on most Americans' lives and happiness levels due to physical and mental health concerns, significant rises in unemployment, and in many cases, shorter commutes after the shift to remote work. 

While some may be surprised to see marriage rates included in the metrics, studies show that married people are typically happier than unmarried people. However, it is worth noting that marriage alone doesn't cause happiness. In fact, people leaving a bad marriage experience spikes of happiness, according to Harvard researcher Daniel Gilbert. With that said, a happy marriage and positive social interactions can be beneficial to mood and mental health.

Continue reading to discover which 10 states have the happiest residents in the U.S.

#1. Utah

- Depression rate: 6
- Median household income: $71,414
- Commute: 21.7 minutes
- Marriage rate: 57.2

Utah residents work 37 hours a week on average and have relatively short commutes. This is in conjunction with a higher-than-average median household income—the average across the U.S. was $68,703 in 2019. Good overall health is also something Utah residents have to be happy about: The state has the lowest rate of physical inactivity among adults, according to the United Health Foundation. Utah is also considered the best state for starting a business, thanks to a friendly business tax climate and high level of venture capital.

#2. Montana

- Depression rate: 4.7
- Median household income: $55,328
- Commute: 18 minutes
- Marriage rate: 53.1

Montanans work 38 hours a week on average and aren’t burdened with long commutes. The overall cost of living in Montana is less than that of the country as a whole, with the average price of groceries, utilities, and transportation all lower than U.S. averages. Residents of the second happiest state in the country also enjoy the lack of sales tax.  

#3. Wisconsin

- Depression rate: 4.4
- Median household income: $60,773
- Commute: 22 minutes
- Marriage rate: 51.7

Native Wisconsinites have a tendency to stay in their home state, with 71.22% of its population born in Wisconsin. Residents in this Midwestern state work on average 38 hours per week. Wisconsin population numbers have been on a steady rise for decades and are expected to continue increasing. 

#4. Nebraska

- Depression rate: 4.1
- Median household income: $59,566
- Commute: 18.6 minutes
- Marriage rate: 54.2

The data shows that Nebraska is not simply a flyover state and perhaps has more to offer its residents than the average person expects. Frequent mental distress is not particularly common among Nebraska residents in comparison to other states and the state also experiences a low prevalence of people using nonmedical drugs. 

#5. Hawaii

- Depression rate: 2.1
- Median household income: $80,212
- Commute: 27.4
- Marriage rate: 50.7

Hawaiians have some of the lowest depression rates in the nation and rank highly for other healthy behaviors and outcomes, including low rates of smoking, high fruit and vegetable consumption, and low occurrences of multiple chronic conditions. While the weather wasn't taken into account in Zippia's study, time in nature has been linked to improved mood. 


#6. South Dakota

- Depression rate: 4.1
- Median household income: $56,274
- Commute: 17
- Marriage rate: 53.2

South Dakotans enjoy some of the lowest unemployment in the nation as well as the shortest average commute time. Residents have endless opportunities to explore the natural beauty of South Dakota, home to the Badlands, Custer State Park, and the Jewel Cave, which all attract tourists from around the world. 

#7. Minnesota

- Depression rate: 5.8
- Median household income: $70,315
- Commute: 23.5
- Marriage rate: 52.7

The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is also the land of good work-life balance (Minnesotans work an average 38 hours per week), and high median household incomes. Minnesota (tied with Utah) has the highest rate of volunteering in the country. Research has shown time and time again that volunteering can make people happier and boost overall mental health. 


#8. Iowa

- Depression rate: 4.9
- Median household income: $59,955
- Commute: 19.1
- Marriage rate: 52.9

Iowa residents deal with fairly brief commutes, coming in at seven minutes shorter than the average U.S. commute, and they work an average of 38 hours per week. The state experiences low income inequality and a low prevalence of people avoiding health care because of financial challenges. 


#9. Wyoming

- Depression rate: 4.7
- Median household income: $61,584
- Commute: 17.8
- Marriage rate: 53.3

One of the happiest states in the country is also one of the least populated with only 572,381 residents. The lucky few living in Wyoming are surrounded by seven national parks that attract international tourists to the state, including Yellowstone, home to the famous Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful geyser. Wyomingites experience a low incidence of economic hardship and low income inequality, likely contributors to overall contentment.

#10. New Jersey

- Depression rate: 3.6
- Median household income: $81,740
- Commute: 31.7
- Marriage rate: 53

New Jersey may be experiencing a decrease in population, but residents who stay have some strong factors in their favor. New Jersey residents have some of the lowest depression rates in the nation and a healthy median household income. However, longer commutes keep New Jersey residents from being considered happier.

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