A new map based on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index charts the levels of happiness across states. As you can see, the happiest states include Hawaii, North Dakota, Minnesota, Utah, Alaska, and Colorado. The least happy states include West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Delaware, and Ohio.
To determine which states rank where, Gallup analyzes factors like emotional health, work environment, physical health, life evaluation, healthy behaviors, and access to basic resources.
(Click the map to view the larger image)
This squares with a 2009 study I conducted with Cambridge University psychologist Jason Rentfrow and my colleague Charlotta Mellander. The research, published in the Journal of Personality Research, found that happier states were wealthier and more educated, with higher levels of the creative class and greater levels of tolerance and diversity. The connections between happiness, the creative class, and diversity hold up even when we control for income.
While the happiness of the nation as a whole has dipped somewhat since then, state-level happiness appears more stable, as Gallup notes:
Well-being across states remains essentially static, reflecting the continuing sluggish economy. While some states are standouts year after year, even those places have yet to see significant improvement in residents' overall well-being since the financial crisis of 2008.
Improving well-being poses a challenge for leaders as many states continue to face severe fiscal problems, reductions in public services, public-sector layoffs or salary cuts, and decreases in federal aid. High unemployment, static or declining salaries, and overwhelming debt burdens - all of which have the potential to affect different aspects of well-being - continue to challenge residents.