While the global pandemic has thrown a curveball in contentment, a new study by WalletHub reveals the states still finding positivity during a challenging time.
In a year plagued by a life-changing pandemic, the naturally socially distanced state of Hawaii ranked as the Happiest State in America, according to a WalletHub study released Tuesday.
By looking at each of the 50 states with 32 metrics, the results gave top honors to the nation’s 50th state, followed by Utah, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, California, North Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, and Connecticut.
“Happiness is a feeling of joy, contentment, and overall positive emotions,” Dr. Chieh-Chen Bowen of Cleveland State University’s psychology department said in a WalletHub statement. “Happiness is a universal goal. We all want to be happy and want such feelings to last.”
To attempt to best measure happiness, WalletHub used three dimensions on a 100-point scale, weighting “emotional and physical well-being” with 50 points and “work environment” and “community and environment” with 25 points each.
While Hawaii ranked number one overall, it came in second for “emotional and physical well-being,” after New Jersey, and third for “community and environment,” following Utah and Idaho. Meanwhile, it snagged the number 16 spot for “work and environment,” with Utah and Idaho also topping that category.
The study also revealed top rankings in subcategories, with Minnesota coming out on top for the highest adequate sleep, New Jersey with the lowest share of adult depression, North Dakota with the lowest long-term unemployment rate, Utah with the highest volunteer rate, and Maine as the safest.
While WalletHub has been doing its Happiest States study since 2014, the financial site notes the particular circumstances of the year making a difference. “In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life as we know it, causing sickness, limiting social interactions, and leading to widespread job losses,” WalletHub’s Adam McCann wrote. “During these trials, which have had a strong negative impact on Americans’ mental health, WalletHub searched for the states where people can stay positive despite the circumstances.”
The bottom of the list starts with Missouri in 40th place, followed by Oregon, Alaska, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and West Virginia, which landed in the last spot.
Before lockdowns started spreading in March, WalletHub also released the results of its Happiest Cities in America study, which used similar metrics. Fremont, California; Plano, Texas; San Jose, California; Irvine, California; and Madison, Wisconsin made the top five. The top-ranking Hawaiian city was Pearl City in the 10th slot, with Honolulu also on the list at number 56.
As a state, this isn’t the first contentment study that Hawaii has topped. For seven years, it also placed first in Gallup’s overall well-being rankings.