Randolph E. Schmid, AP
People in sunny, outdoorsy states say they're the happiest Americans, and researchers think they know why. A new study comparing self-described pleasant feelings with objective measures of good living found these folks generally have reason to feel fine.
The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing things like climate, crime rates, air quality and schools. The happiness ratings were based on a survey of 1.3 million people across the country by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It used data collected over four years that included a question asking people how satisfied they are with their lives.
Economists Andrew J. Oswald and Stephen Wu compared the happiness ranking with studies that rated states on a variety of criteria ranging from availability of public land to commuting time to local taxes. Probably not surprisingly, their report in Friday's edition of the journal Science found the happiest people tend to live in the states that do well in quality-of-life studies.
Ranking No. 1 in happiness was Louisiana. Rounding out the happy five were Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona. At the other end of the scale, last in happiness — is New York state.
As if to illustrate the problem, residents attending a meeting Wednesday in rural Queensbury unleashed their anger and cynicism at a state government they described as corrupt, self-dealing and too quick to increase taxes. Oswald suggested the long commutes, congestion and high prices around New York City account for some of the unhappiness. California ranked 46th.