(NEW YORK) — Denmark is the world’s happiest country… and Minnesota is America’s happiest state? The Land of 10,000 Lakes may lack the glitzy allure of a New York or Los Angeles, but it beats out the rest of the nation when it comes to overall life satisfaction, a new study finds.
Researchers at Magnify Money, a personal finance site, recently sought to measure the happiness levels of all 50 states, using 20 wellness factors as proxies. These factors, derived from a recent Oxford University study, were based on health, lifestyle, and prosperity markers, allowing the researchers to assign each state a “wellness” score out of 100.
Using this scale, Minnesota scored the highest (73.3), with South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, and North Dakota rounding out the top five. The least happy states were Louisiana, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi, respectively, each scoring below 34.
The researchers noted that six of the ten happiest states were in the Midwest, while seven of the ten least happy states were in the South. Notable exceptions to this pattern included Rhode Island (ranking 49th overall), Nevada (ranking 42nd overall), and New Hampshire (ranking 9th overall).
Another observation: many states excelled in one or two categories, but not others, bringing down their overall ranking. Utah is a prime example: it ranked first in lifestyle and prosperity, but 21st in health, putting it in 4th place.
On the flip side, some high-ranking states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire, weren’t world-beaters in any specific category, but still ranked strongly across the board. Minnesota, which didn’t have any other first-place finishes, has a similar story. It ranked third in health and lifestyle, and sixth in prosperity.
On an individual level, this sort of holistic approach to health — incorporating proper sleep, exercise routines, and money habits — is best to emulate.
“Happiness comes when you’re thriving in your relationships, career, finances, health and in your engagement with your community,” offers Victoria Craze, a fitness consultant who worked with the researchers, in a release.
While less than a tenth of people thrive in all these categories, Craze suggests that improvements in one area can lead to improvements in another. Exercise, for example, can help with both sleep and stress.
And now we know that for some, changing zip codes can also serve as a catalyst.
The rankings (Click to enlarge):
Magnify Money’s study results were published July 25, 2018.