The Happiest States In America In 2023, Ranked From Best To Worst

Recent research examined the 50 states across 30 key metrics, ranging from the depression rate to money problems to productivity levels to adequate sleep rates and more, to assess which state was the happiest.

By Gina Florio3 min read
Pexels/ Jonathan Borba

Happiness can seem like an arbitrary term that is more subjective than anything else, but recent research from WalletHub suggests that you can in fact quantify how happy people are in each state of America. There are a variety of internal and external factors that can determine how happy people are, whether it's health, loving friends and family around us, doing activities we enjoy, financial stability, etc. For example, the incredibly high inflation we're all experiencing this year has taken a toll on many people's mental health (and of course their wallet). In fact, more than 75% of Americans who have experienced price increases where they live report feeling “very” or “moderately” stressed. In addition, only 50% of Americans feel “very satisfied” with the way their personal life is going.

Even though people across the U.S. are facing difficult times, the state in which you live may have an impact on how happy you are. In this study, WalletHub drew upon the findings of “happiness” research to determine which environmental factors are linked to a person’s overall well-being and satisfaction with life. Previous studies have found that good economic, emotional, physical, and social health are all key to a well-balanced and fulfilled life. To determine where Americans exhibit the best combination of these factors, WalletHub examined the 50 states across 30 key metrics, ranging from the depression rate to money problems to productivity levels to adequate sleep rates, and more. Here is the ranking from happiest to least happy.

  1. Utah

  2. Hawaii

  3. Maryland

  4. Minnesota

  5. New Jersey

  6. Connecticut

  7. California

  8. Florida

  9. Idaho

  10. Nebraska

  11. Delaware

  12. Massachusetts

  13. North Dakota

  14. Virginia

  15. New Hampshire

  16. New York

  17. Illinois

  18. South Dakota

  19. Wisconsin

  20. South Carolina

  21. Iowa

  22. Washington

  23. Kansas

  24. Georgia

  25. Pennsylvania

  26. North Carolina

  27. Arizona

  28. Vermont

  29. Rhode Island

  30. Maine

  31. Colorado

  32. Nevada

  33. Michigan

  34. Montana

  35. Missouri

  36. Wyoming

  37. Ohio

  38. Oregon

  39. Texas

  40. Indiana

  41. Oklahoma

  42. New Mexico

  43. Alaska

  44. Mississippi

  45. Alabama

  46. Kentucky

  47. Arkansas

  48. Tennessee

  49. Louisiana

  50. West Virginia

The Happiest States in America

Number one on the list is Utah. Its total score was 69.79, and it was ranked 16th out of all the states for emotional and physical well-being (Hawaii was number one in that category). In categories of both work environment and community, Utah came out as number one. It was ranked 3rd for sports participation rate and had the fewest mean work hours compared to all the other states. Additionally, it grabbed the very first ranking for volunteer rate and was 4th for safety. Interestingly enough, Utah has the lowest separation and divorce rate in the whole country at 15.46%. It seems like some of the most important factors for happiness are related to physical and emotional health, safety, marriage and family, and physical activity.

Hawaii is number two, with an overall score of 66.42. It's ranked 25th for work environment and 30th for community and environment. It has the lowest rate of adult depression in the entire country, although it is ranked 49th for adequate sleep rate and 45th for volunteer rate. Hawaii's suicide rate is 11.4%, and it ranks 4th for lowest divorce rate and 5th for safest state.

Maryland, Minnesota, and New Jersey make up the remaining states in the top five. Surprisingly, New Jersey is number three for emotional and physical well-being, and it has the lowest suicide rate in the country (second is New York, which is also surprising).

For adequate sleep rate, the top five states are Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Colorado, Vermont, Utah, Washington, and New Hampshire have the best rates of sports participation. Following New Jersey and New York, the states with the lowest suicide rate are Massachusetts, Maryland, and Connecticut. The states with the lowest long-term unemployment rate include North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Iowa, and Kansas. Highest income takes place in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Arizona. The safest states to live in are Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Utah, and Hawaii.

The Least Happy States in America

West Virginia is apparently the least happy state in America, with a total score of 35.08 and ranking dead last for both emotional and physical well-being, as well as work environment. Louisiana is close behind with a score of 35.86 and ranked 48th for emotional and physical well-being; it ranked 46th for sports participation rate and mean work hours. It also ranks 48th for divorce rate and very last for safety. Tennessee has a score of 38.30 and is second to last for community and environment. It ranks 47th for adult depression rates.

The states with the highest rate of long-term unemployment are Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and Nevada. Oklahoma, Connecticut, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Alaska have the lowest rates of income growth. The highest divorce rate belongs to Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Nevada, and New Mexico. The least safe states are Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Taking into account things like work environment, ideal weather, and average leisure time spent per day, these states were the ones that fared the worst. Some people express surprise with the results, especially considering that states like Tennessee and Florida are the places where most people are fleeing from California, New York, Illinois, etc. Much of the data used for this research came from the US Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AmeriCorps, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and more.

One metric that didn't seem to be measured was people's involvement in religious life, which would certainly be connected to people's divorce rate, their leisurely and social life, volunteering, and more. People are especially surprised to see that Minnesota and New Jersey would end up in the top five happiest states, leaving them questioning whether these metrics are rigged. Just between 2020 and 2021, violent crime in Minnesota increased from 17.2% to 21.6%. While Utah wasn't so much of a surprise, many people are having trouble believing that Hawaii (which had some of the severest Covid lockdowns and remains one of the most expensive states to live in) and California end up in the top 10, while states like Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas remain in the bottom of the ranking.

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