Hawaii is the happiest state in the country, according to a new study.
But beyond that totally reasonable and foreseeable rating, a new ranking of states by happiness by WalletHub includes a lot of surprises: 37 to be exact, by my count.
These are states that are ranked either much higher or much lower for overall happiness than you’d otherwise expect.
WalletHub used 31 different metrics, ranging from adult depression rate to the degree to which residents get enough sleep, to income level and commuting length, to came up with the rankings.
They were then combined into three overall categories–emotional & physical well-being, work environment, and community & environment–and correlated with the findings of a series of scientific studies.
Here’s the full list of states, along with why they ranked where they did. Let us know in the comments if your state’s ranking surprises you.
Okay no big surprise. Hawaii wins. Since the rest of the country travels there on vacation, and even entertains thoughts of moving there while visiting, it makes sense it’s number 1. Its only low-ish ranking was for work environment, where it came in 30th. But who goes to Hawaii to work anyway?
Okay, already a bit of a surprise. I’ve traveled to Utah quite a bit for work, and the people are friendly. But the #2 happiest state? Maybe it has to do with the fact that Utah rated #1 for “fewest work hours.” Also, lowest divorce rate.
Third? I mean, it’s cold up there! But it ranks very high in every category. And there is such a thing as Minnesota Nice.
4. North Dakota
North Dakota seems like it’s the place for people who think Minnesota is too warm. Yet it lands #4 on the list. A top performer across the board, it’s also the #1 state in terms of income growth.
Hmmm, I thought I’d heard that everyone hated California now and was trying to leave. Turns out, its high ranking for emotional & physical well-being put it right near the top. It also has the fifth lowest rate of adult depression of all states, so I guess we can get rid of those California therapy stereotypes. It’s still expensive as heck, though.
Okay, we’ll call this one a borderline surprise. It’s the place where conservative Californians always threaten to move to. Its middling ranking for emotional & physical well-being (#24) are offset by work environment (#2) and community & environment (#1).
Despite the fact that people in Maryland apparently don’t like their jobs (work environment rank: #38), the state did well otherwise.
This is a surprising result only because much of the country only thinks about Iowa once every four years during political season. But people are apparently quite happy there.
9. South Dakota
Less of a surprise largely because we’ve already seen that contiguous states like Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa are in the top 10. And we’re about to see that Nebraska is there, too. Also: #1 for adequate amounts of sleep.
Sure enough: rounding out the top 10. This is surprising simply because it doesn’t rank that high in any particular category. For emotional & physical well-being they’re #10, considerably lower for all other categories.
Yet another northern, Midwestern state, barely outside the top 10. I’d say this would have been a surprise before we started reading this list, but having seen so many other states in the region above it, less so.
What? I used to live in Connecticut and I can tell you: Big surprise to see it near the top. Emotional & physical well-being ranks #9, but work environment is 40. But, and this is a bit morbid, it has the fifth lowest suicide rate in the country, so that must count for something.
13. New Jersey
My current home, and I’d like to think my mere presence makes everyone around me happy, but still: #13? Second lowest rate of depression and lowest suicide rate in the country, so that’s positive. And while the cost of living is pretty high, incomes and employment are high, too. The smart thing to do is work here, then retire somewhere else happy and cheap.
14. New York
Yet another state where the media tells us everyone is miserable all the time, but then it turns out it ranks pretty high for happiness. Since nearly half of New York State’s population actually lives in New York City, that’s pretty telling. Also: lowest rate of adult depression in the country. And not for lack of diagnoses.
A surprise? Perhaps if you judge Virginia by what went on in Charlottesville last year. But overall, it scores pretty well in all categories.
Yet another state where we’re told by the media that people are depressed and leaving in droves, due to the high cost of living. Nope, its high rankings in emotional & physical well-being (13) and work environment (14) seem to more than offset it.
High work environment (#5; I wonder how much of that is due to Amazon and Microsoft?) and high community & environment rank (#9). Also: #4 for “sports participation rate.”
I’m not surprised Colorado is in the top half. I’m just surprised that it’s ranking behind states like California and Massachusetts. Fun fact: #2 overall for “adequate sleep.” Must be the mountain air.
Community & environment rank (#7) helps Georgia, which oddly has the fourth lowest rate of participation in sports.
20. North Carolina
No jokes today about North Carolina as it’s facing the brunt of a hurricane. Our thoughts are with the people who live there.
Crazy hot? “Yes,” they say, “but it’s a dry heat.” Work environment comes in at #12 for Arizona, and it almost never rains (at least by rest of the country standards).
Texas came in second to last for community & environment, but its emotional & physical well-being rank was high: #11. Fourth lowest level of adult depression coupled with fourth-highest work hours. Seems like Texans like their work.
A big state in the middle of the country comes in right smack almost in the middle of the rankings. It’s dragged down by work environment (#45) and community & environment (#44).
24. New Hampshire
The surprise here would be that New Hampshire comes in behind Connecticut and Massachusetts, two other New England states. Sadly it comes in fifth from the bottom in terms of rate of adult depression.
Right at the center of the rankings, and the center of the country, come to think of it. No big surprise there.
Nevada has the #3 ranking for community & environment and is #15 for work environment. Yet, it still comes in at 26th. Its emotional & physical well-being rating (#40) probably is a factor.
Coming in at #45 for community & environment drags Delaware down. It’s an underrated state, otherwise.
Boy, the emotional & physical well-being rank here (#37) is lower than I would have imagined. work environment is #7.
Another big, diverse state that factors in so many communities it might be tough to unpack this rating. But coming in at #47 for community & environment likely does not help.
Work environment here was #41, which pulled the state’s overall ranking down.
31. Rhode Island
I grew up in Rhode Island, and I’ve come to think of it as the most tragic state in the country: Incredible beauty and every advantage, but for some reason, some unhappy people. Tied for second at least hours worked, which might free up time to enjoy the coastline.
I’m going to exercise editorial discretion and say that the idea that Indiana is the 19th least happy state isn’t really a surprise. Every ranking is middling according to WalletHub, between 22 and 25.
Work environment ranks high here, and parts of the state are truly unspoiled and beautiful. But oh my God is it ever cold in the winter.
Stories out of Michigan that don’t involve sports unfortunately have a lot to do with problems in Detroit and Flint, along with the shifting auto industry. So, perhaps not surprising that it ranks pretty low.
Grand Teton? Yellowstone? Some of the lowest taxes in the country? Nevertheless Wyoming ranks low in happiness. It has among the highest work hours (#48) and highest suicide rate (#48).
36. South Carolina
Like its sister state to the north, South Carolina is facing the brunt of a big hurricane as I write this, so we’ll just say that we hope everyone prevails and finds greater happiness in the future.
Probably not a big surprise to see Ohio deep in the lower half of this list of happiest states. It feels like their sports teams are a metaphor. Tied for 46th worst when it comes to getting adequate sleep, too.
Another beautiful, cold state with a low ranking for community & environment (#48). Heck, they’re actually paying people to move there.
This one is a big surprise, because we tend to think of Oregon as a fit and outdoorsy kind of place. Nope, it came in #43 on emotional & physical well-being.
Work environment in Tennessee came in at #8. Everything else was in the 40s.
41. New Mexico
Adjacent to Colorado (#18) and Arizona (#21), and yet it comes in so much lower. Across the board, New Mexico simply had poor rankings. And it comes in dead last for worst unemployment rate over tme.
Wow, emotional & physical well-being dragged Missouri down (#45).
Eight of the 10 least happy states are in the Old South. Work environment especially was horrible in Mississippi (#46). It also had the second-lowest sports participation rate in America.
Similar to a few other states here, emotional & physical well-being pulled Kentucky to the bottom of the list (#48).
Across the board low rankings, including emotional & physical well-being (#46) and community & environment (#43).
A bit of a surprise simply because it ranks so far below the adjoining states. Once again, emotional & physical well-being was very low (#47).
One would have to think that the isolation and vastness of Alaska pulled it toward the bottom fo the list. Also its work environment rank was #49, and community & environment came in dead last.
For tourists, Louisiana is a blast. But for people who live there, the rankings are low.
Dead last in emotional & physical well-being. Perhaps not a surprise if you watch Ozarks.
50. West Virginia
Okay, maybe not a big surprise here, as West Virginia ranks low in so many categories. Surprising perhaps: #49 on adequate sleep.