Happiness is defined as "a state of well-being and contentment" — at least according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Well, the fine people at WalletHub looked at various factors, such as levels of depression, work hours, and income growth, to find out which states are the happiest and least happiest.
And it should come as no surprise that Hawaii came in at No. 1 on the list. Rounding out the top 5 were Utah, Minnesota, North Dakota, and California.
"Where we live has a huge influence on our level of happiness. When we live somewhere with access to characteristics that are good for our health, like sunshine, fresh air, healthy foods, and good medical care, we tend to be happier," assistant professor of psychology Amanda Watson Joyce told WalletHub. "However, it appears that, as before, people are happiest when they have access to good relationships. People are happy when they have deep roots in an area — when they stay put in a good area, they have better chances for longer-term friendships, and therefore, better chances for happiness."
However, which state ranked last when it came to "well-being and contentment?" Unfortunately, that title goes to West Virginia (take me home, country roads). John Denver would be devastated...
It scored second-to-last in emotional and physical well-being AND work environment. The Mountain State did slightly better (32nd place) in the community and environment column.
Joining West Virginia at the bottom of the happiness chart are Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, and Oklahoma.
Which state has the highest level of adult depression?
Weather seems to be a major factor in the states with the saddest people. Oregon tops the list, along with West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and New Hampshire.
Suicide rates were also analyzed in the study, and the researchers found that Montana was home to the highest number of suicides, followed by Alaska, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah.
What about the highest divorce rates?
Loneliness is a major factor when it comes to unhappiness, so it is no surprise divorce was one of the variables included in the study. Aside from Nevada, which probably topped the list due to Las Vegas' reputation for quickie weddings, states with the most people ending their marriages include Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and New Mexico.
Looking for the states with the most happily married couples? Consider moving to Utah, North Dakota, New Jersey, Minnesota, or Hawaii.
Does money influence happiness?
Yes, but only to a certain extent. "Lack of money can be a big source of stress and can lead to bad behaviors like failure to take medication, stress at work, and having a short temper with children," professor of organizational psychology Lori Foster said. "Interestingly, people report income having a decreasing marginal return on happiness after about $75k on average. If we use life evaluation as a measure for happiness, then this caps off around $95,000."
Career and income growth were examined in the study, and it was revealed that states with the lowest income growth were Nevada, Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, and Georgia.
Similarly, the states with the highest unemployment rates included New Mexico, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, and Maryland.
So, what can you do if you live in one of the sadder states in the U.S. of A.?
"Wherever we are, if we can minimize the daily hassles that cause stress, such as traffic, driving distance, then our daily happiness increases," distinguished professor at the University of North Florida, Dominik Güss, explained. "On the flip side too, wherever we are, we can maximize what the place offers such as regular walks at the beach, learning a new hobby or enjoying outdoor sports such as surfing, hiking, camping, paddle boarding, planting or maintaining a garden, joining book clubs or Zumba or yoga classes."
You hear that, West Virginians. Sign up for Zumba ASAP. You can view the full results here.