Taken together, a population with poor emotional and physical well-being, a low average income bracket, and few recreational and community activities will give you a recipe for the country's most unhappy state. In this case, that's West Virginia.
The rankings tallied by WalletHub, a financial website, analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia for more than two dozen metrics from several studies and compiled them into categories that evaluated physical and emotional well-being, work, and involvement in community, environment and recreational activities. Factors that played a role into these categories included wealth, sleep, obesity, participation in sports, volunteering and hours worked per week.
While West Virginia might not come in as the lowest of the low in work or activities — it took 50th and 46th place in each of these respective categories — it does rank at the bottom in terms of overall physical and emotional health.
Also among the least happy of states were Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
“We definitely have room to grow and get healthier and happier,” Michael Briddell, the Montgomery, Alabama's health official, told the Montgomery Advertiser after the state's second lowest happiness rating was revealed. “We’re spreading awareness about issues. We’ve got public health and medical entities out there that are addressing the problem and doing a very good job at it."
Conversely, here are the top 10 happiest states:
Check out this interactive map that reveals the ranks of other states (or head over to WalletHub to see the full list):
Michael Hout, a sociology professor at New York University, told WalletHub that connecting with other people, in addition to health initiatives and providing recreation amenities, for example, is a good way to up happiness levels in a community.
"Commuting and attending meetings where you do not control the agenda are the biggest drags," he added. "So, [paying] more to live close to work, or [finding] a job close to home would be other things people can do to make themselves happier."
John de Graaf, author of the book "Take Back Your Time," shared Hout's perspective on the importance of relationships.
"Seek out friendship and community once you are secure," he told WalletHub. "Spend more on experiences than stuff."
Care to know if you live in one of the country's happiest (or unhappiest) of cities? Check out a similar ranking study that came out in July.