The Happiest States in the U.S. 2022 Report

WRITTEN BY MODERN RECOVERY EDITORIAL TEAM

AUGUST 8, 2022

The Happiest States in the U.S. 2022 Report

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To determine the most accurate answer to our question: “Which is the happiest U.S. state in the nation?,” we decided to keep things relatively simple.

Calculating The Happiest State in the U.S.

Method of Calculation: We took all the ranking positions for each state, we would like to think we performed a unique, highly complex mathematical matrix, so we arrived at our definitive answer.

In reality, we added all 7 ranking positions for each state together and then divided by 10. This gave an entirely new set of overall results to only one decimal point (just imagine dividing the total number by 7?).

We could then rank these results (with the lowest number being in 1st place) and so find the U.S. state to be crowned “Happiest State in the U.S.”

“Happiness” Rankings: Example Calculation

Arizona

Happiness
Indicator
Individual
Ranking
Happiness
Calculation
Wellbeing 25 Ranking Positions
Total:
252
(Total / 10)

25.2

Mental Health 48
Health Care 21
Family 48
Financial Security 28
Home 37
Work 45

Here are the final “Happiness” rankings:

The Happiest State in the U.S. (Official Modern Recovery Rankings)

Top Quintile 2nd Quintile 3rd Quintile 4th Quintile 5th Quintile
1 6.8 10 11.1 21 16.5 31 20.4 41 24.7
Massachusetts Virginia North Dakota Kansas Tennessee
2 7.0 12 11.5 22 16.9 32 21.5 42 25.1
New Hampshire Connecticut Washington Indiana Texas
3 7.1 13 12.4 23 17.2 33 22.3 43 25.2
Maryland Iowa South Dakota Georgia Arizona
4 8.1 14 12.7 24 17.3 34 22.5 43 25.2
Minnesota Utah California Wyoming Oklahoma
5 8.2 15 12.9 25 18.0 35 22.8 45 26.0
Vermont Delaware Florida Missouri New Mexico
6 8.4 15 12.9 26 18.4 35 22.8 46 26.3
New Jersey Illinois Montana North Carolina West Virginia
7 8.6 17 13.5 27 18.5 37 22.9 47 27.1
Rhode Island Pennsylvania Michigan Kentucky Alaska
8 10.3 18 14.8 28 18.8 38 23.0 48 27.2
Wisconsin Colorado Oregon Ohio Nevada
9 10.8 18 148 29 19.0 39 24.1 49 27.6
Hawaii New York Idaho Louisiana Mississippi
10 11.1 20 15.3 30 19.4 40 24.4 50 28.6
Maine Nebraska South Carolina Alabama Arkansas

And introducing the state of Massachusetts as “The Happiest State in the U.S.”

Massachusetts: “The Happiest State in the U.S.”

It seems fitting that our study of which state in the U.S. should be deemed “The Happiest” has led us back to the very origins of the nation we know today, back to the land where the Pilgrim Fathers, the English settlers who came to North America across the vast Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower, chose to settle over 400 hundred years ago.

Our research studies reveal that the state of Massachusetts topped the rankings for 3 of our categories: Wellbeing, Mental Health, and Family, and featured in the top 11 states for 3 more: Health Care, Financial Security, and Work.

How do you define the feeling of being happy? Can happiness be measured in some way?

What Is Happiness?

Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

But is that true? Can you simply decide to be happy? Probably not, as we’d all be doing it now if we had the choice. For a fact, the vast majority of mental health clinicians, other medical experts, and your family doctor would certainly disagree with old Abe.

So the question remains: “What is happiness?”

And if you could measure real happiness somehow, would you be able to calculate which state in the U.S. is the happiest state?

First of all, let’s define happiness:

According to The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, CA., most of us probably don’t care what the definition of happiness is – we just know it when we feel it, and we all want to be happy.

Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Snoopy cartoon, even entered his own opinion on the subject: “Happiness is a warm puppy.” To be honest, he certainly has a point, but in reality, it’s a little more involved than that.

We use the word “happy” to describe many positive emotions, including contentment, pride, joy, and gratitude. Most dictionaries simply define it as “the state of being happy.”

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a positive psychology researcher and author, defined happiness more thoroughly in her 2007 book “The How of Happiness” as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

Speaking of researchers, many of them use the word “happiness” interchangeably with the term “subjective well-being,” which can be measured, according to social and psychology experts. This is done by asking people to report how satisfied and content they feel with their own lives and how many positive and negative emotions they’re experiencing.

What is “Subjective Well-Being”?

Subjective well-being (often abbreviated to SWB and also known as “self-reported well-being”) refers to how people experience and evaluate the different aspects of their lives. It is often used to measure a person’s mental health and level of happiness, and it can be an important predictor of individual health, wellness, and longevity.

As major U.S. corporations, politicians, and charitable foundations become more data-driven, SWB has also become a useful measure of societal health and a source of information for policymakers to base decisions upon, such as those involving public health, and economic and social policies, too.

Subjective well-being can be influenced by several different factors, including those that are internal, such as your personality, or external, such as the culture or the environment of where you live.

SWB researchers have identified specific key categories that play an important role in your overall well-being; these are:

  • Your Basic Resources: Having what you need in life, eg. money, housing, or healthcare.
  • Your Personality & Temperament: Your inborn temperament will affect your overall happiness throughout your life. Your personality is another key component, too.
  • Your Mindset & Resilience: People with a positive, strong mindset and a strong sense of resilience are more optimistic and tend to be happier, even when facing difficult life events.
  • Your Social Support: Social support – having a network of family and friends that you can turn to in times of need – impacts both your physical and mental well-being,
  • Your Society: The characteristics of the society in which you live, especially if it is affected by crime, war, poverty, or conflict, for example, will also influence how you feel about your life.

The Real Benefits of Being Happy

As you would imagine, being happy is a good thing, and being happy with your life has real benefits, too. Here are the clearest benefits that happiness brings:

Health Benefits

Other Personal & Social Benefits

If you are happy and enjoy a high subjective well-being level, you will…

  • Tend to be healthier and live longer
  • Tend to earn more money
  • Have a stronger immunity and experience reduced inflammation
  • More likely to be productive and creative
  • Have a protective buffer against stress and negative emotions
  • Cooperate more with others
  • Have a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Engage in fewer risky behaviors
  • Faster recovery after illness
  • Enjoy better social relationships
  • Increased practice of health-promoting behaviors
  • Engage in more prosocial behaviors, eg. charity fundraising, and volunteer work

Here at Modern Recovery Services, we decided to research and study what we considered to be the 7 most critical “happiness indicators” that would lead to a happier life to then make our own determination of which is the happiest state in the U.S.

These factors are:

  • Wellbeing
  • Money
  • Mental Health
  • Homeownership
  • Health Care
  • Employment
  • Family

Happiness Indicator #1: Your Wellbeing

As we discussed earlier, your “subjective wellbeing” is a quality that can be measured and then indexed, and one of the most respected indices – the “Sharecare Community Well-Being Index” – is the analysis of a national survey carried out by Sharecare, a leading U.S. digital health company, in partnership with Boston University’s School of Public Health.

The latest version of the index is Sharecare Community Well-Being Index, which was released last month (July 2022), and their results – U.S. state wellbeing rankings – are shown below.

In 2021, nearly 500,000 U.S. residents were asked questions based on Sharecare’s criteria, and the Wellbeing Index’s results mirror those residents’ responses.

Here are the determining factors which represent the Wellbeing Index’s criteria:

  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Social
  • Community
  • Purpose
  • Economic Security
  • Healthcare Access
  • Food Access
  • Resource Access
  • Housing & Transportation

And here are the results:

Massachusetts sits happily in the #1 spot – for the second year running, and… sadly, Mississippi is rooted at the bottom of the rankings – apparently, for the 3rd year running.

Happiness Indicator #1: Your Wellbeing

Top Quintile 2nd Quintile 3rd Quintile 4th Quintile 5th Quintile
1 Massachusetts 11 Rhode Island 21 New Hampshire 31 Montana 41 Indiana
2 Hawaii 12 Virginia 22 Delaware 32 Ohio 42 Tennessee
3 New Jersey 13 Illinois 23 Vermont 33 South Dakota 43 Oklahoma
4 Maryland 14 Oregon 24 Wisconsin 34 Idaho 44 Louisiana
5 New York 15 Minnesota 25 Arizona 35 Georgia 45 New Mexico
6 California 16 North Dakota 26 Kansas 36 Missouri 46 Alabama
7 Colorado 17 Nevada 27 Texas 37 Maine 47 Kentucky
8 Connecticut 18 Pennsylvania 28 Alaska 38 North Carolina 48 West Virginia
9 Washington 19 Nebraska 29 Wyoming 39 Michigan 49 Arkansas
10 Utah 20 Florida 30 Iowa 40 South Carolina 50 Mississippi

Source: Sharecare Community Well-Being Index, 2021: State Rankings Report

Happiness Indicator #2: Your Mental Health

As you would imagine, your level of mental health plays an exceptionally important role in determining your level of happiness.

Did you know that constantly striving to be happy can be damaging to your mental health? According to several studies, excessively valuing happiness can cause a person to feel less happy than they are. It can even be associated with symptoms of depression, one of the most common mental health issues in the U.S. today.

However, those who live not striving for happiness and are more accepting of their circumstances tend to be happier as a result. These more natural feelings of happiness have been proven to act as a protective barrier to depressing situations or events that may normally have led to symptoms of depression.

One of the most respected surveys of the nation’s mental health is undertaken by Mental Health America (MHA), one of the U.S.’s leading community-based nonprofits dedicated to addressing the needs of those with mental illness.

Using a range of specific criteria, including the prevalence of mental illness, substance use, and suicidal thoughts; the number of people with healthcare insurance and the number seeking treatment; and the presence of mental health treatment facilities in each state, the report provides a relatively accurate picture of mental health in the U.S. now.

Happiness Indicator #2: Your Mental Health

Top Quintile 2nd Quintile 3rd Quintile 4th Quintile 5th Quintile
1 Massachusetts 11 Rhode Island 21 Delaware 31 Washington 41 Indiana
2 New Jersey 12 Illinois 22 Iowa 32 Oklahoma 42 Utah
3 Pennsylvania 13 New Hampshire 23 California 33 Tennessee 43 Texas
4 Connecticut 14 Hawaii 24 Ohio 34 New Mexico 44 Alabama
5 Vermont 15 Kentucky 25 Nebraska 35 Mississippi 45 Oregon
6 New York 16 South Dakota 26 Georgia 36 Colorado 46 Alaska
7 Wisconsin 17 Michigan 27 Florida 37 West Virginia 47 Wyoming
8 Maine 18 Louisiana 28 North Dakota 38 Arkansas 48 Arizona
9 Maryland 19 Virginia 29 South Carolina 39 Missouri 49 Idaho
10 Minnesota 20 Montana 30 North Carolina 40 Kansas 50 Nevada

Source: 2022 The State of Mental Health in America Report

Happiness Indicator #3: Your Health Care

The well-being and potential for the happiness of every single American is heavily dependent upon their level of health care. Put it this way – no one in constant chronic pain or with a debilitating medical condition has a realistic chance of finding true happiness without treatment.

In the U.S., one of the most respected sources of national surveys is the U.S. News & World Report. This multifaceted digital media company assists Americans with important life decisions.

To find the best states for healthcare in the U.S. (one of our own “happiness” criteria), we looked at their official Health Care Rankings for all states. In determining their rankings, U.S. News looks at data for health care access, health care quality, and the state of public health.

Here’s what they found:

Happiness Indicator #3: Your Health Care

Top Quintile 2nd Quintile 3rd Quintile 4th Quintile 5th Quintile
1 Hawaii 11 Utah 21 Arizona 31 Texas 41 Kansas
2 Massachusetts 12 Virginia 22 Alaska 32 Indiana 42 Missouri
3 Connecticut 13 New Hampshire 23 Illinois 33 New Mexico 43 Georgia
4 New Jersey 14 Delaware 24 Idaho 34 South Carolina 44 Kentucky
5 California 15 Wisconsin 25 Florida 35 Michigan 45 Alabama
6 Maryland 16 Minnesota 26 Maine 36 Montana 46 Louisiana
7 New York 17 Oregon 27 North Dakota 37 Ohio 47 West Virginia
8 Washington 18 Vermont 28 Nebraska 38 Wyoming 48 Oklahoma
9 Rhode Island 19 Pennsylvania 29 South Dakota 39 Nevada 49 Arkansas
10 Colorado 20 Iowa 30 North Carolina 40 Tennessee 50 Mississippi

Source: U.S. News & World Report Health Care Rankings

Happiness Indicator #4: Your Family

One of America’s greatest ever comedians of the last century, George Burns, who over 70 years brought happiness to millions, once said of family: “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family… in another city.”

Chuckles aside, why is a “loving, caring, close-knit” family important to your personal happiness?

Scientific studies say this: Family (usually) provides financial stability in our early years, meeting our basic needs and so allowing us to grow – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Year-on-year studies have even found family bonds mattered more to people than income.

One of the primary reasons why family is important is support, and it’s not just a one-way street. One study found nearly 70% of parents depend on their children for emotional support, which is known to counter stress, depressive symptoms, and low self-esteem. Another survey found more than 60% of participants said their sibling was their best friend.

For our calculations into the happiest state in the U.S., we looked at the states where the highest percentage of the population lived within a family environment.

Happiness Indicator #4: Your Family

Top Quintile 2nd Quintile 3rd Quintile 4th Quintile 5th Quintile
1 Massachusetts 11 Rhode Island 21 Delaware 31 Washington 41 Indiana
2 New Jersey 12 Illinois 22 Iowa 32 Oklahoma 42 Utah
3 Pennsylvania 13 New Hampshire 23 California 33 Tennessee 43 Texas
4 Connecticut 14 Hawaii 24 Ohio 34 New Mexico 44 Alabama
5 Vermont 15 Kentucky 25 Nebraska 35 Mississippi 45 Oregon
6 New York 16 South Dakota 26 Georgia 36 Colorado 46 Alaska
7 Wisconsin 17 Michigan 27 Florida 37 West Virginia 47 Wyoming
8 Maine 18 Louisiana 28 North Dakota 38 Arkansas 48 Arizona
9 Maryland 19 Virginia 29 South Carolina 39 Missouri 49 Idaho
10 Minnesota 20 Montana 30 North Carolina 40 Kansas 50 Nevada

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Happiness Indicator #5: Your Financial Security

Happiness-4

The opposite of financial security in today’s consumer-driven world is poverty. Most people would describe poverty as not having the money to pay for all the essentials most others can take for granted, such as food, clothing, and shelter.

However, poverty is much, much more than that – and poverty itself costs, just not in a financial way. The World Bank Organization describes poverty like this:

Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick, and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school, and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, [it] is fear for the future, living one day at a time.”

Poverty also means:

  • Not being able to participate in recreational activities
  • Not being able to send children on a day trip with their schoolmates or to a birthday party
  • Not being able to pay for medications for an illness.

Therefore, for these reasons, we have included your financial security as an important element of achieving real happiness in your life.

Happiness Indicator #5: Your Financial Security

Top Quintile 2nd Quintile 3rd Quintile 4th Quintile 5th Quintile
1 New Hampshire 11 Delaware 21 North Dakota 31 Indiana 41 North Carolina
2 Minnesota 12 Nebraska 22 Wyoming 32 South Dakota 42 Oklahoma
3 New Jersey 13 Illinois 23 Hawaii 33 Nevada 43 Kentucky
4 Utah 14 Vermont 24 Pennsylvania 34 Alaska 44 Alabama
5 Washington 15 Oregon 25 Connecticut 35 New York 45 West Virginia
6 Massachusetts 16 Rhode Island 26 Missouri 36 Florida 46 Arkansas
7 Idaho 17 Maine 27 Montana 37 Ohio 47 South Carolina
8 Maryland 18 Iowa 28 Arizona 38 Texas 48 New Mexico
9 Wisconsin 19 Kansas 29 California 39 Georgia 49 Louisiana
10 Virginia 20 Colorado 30 Michigan 40 Tennessee 50 Mississippi

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Happiness Indicator #6: Your Home

Shelter is a basic need of life (and some would say, of survival, too). The simple idea that there is always a place for you to go – the family home – if your circumstances change for the worse is often a surprising yet real comfort in troubled times.

In the U.S., according to Census Bureau data from the 1st quarter of 2022, the national average homeownership rate is 65.4%. However, homeownership declined in 90% of U.S. states between 2005 and 2020.

In many states, homeownership rates are low because renting is extremely popular. However, some states with low homeownership rates also have a high rental vacancy, which may indicate gradual depopulation, as more people “up sticks” and move out-of-state for work or other reasons.

West Virginia has the highest homeownership rate nationwide (79.6%), and California has the lowest rate at 54.2%. Lastly (and just for information, as it is not included in our calculations), Washington, D.C.’s homeownership rate is a mere 40.3%.

Happiness Indicator #6: Your Home

Top Quintile 2nd Quintile 3rd Quintile 4th Quintile 5th Quintile
1 West Virginia 11 Wyoming 21 Pennsylvania 31 Florida 41 North Dakota
2 South Carolina 12 Alabama 22 Kansas 32 Oklahoma 42 Washington
3 Delaware 13 Indiana 23 Kentucky 33 Virginia 43 Texas
3 Iowa 14 South Dakota 24 Rhode Island 34 Colorado 44 New Jersey
3 Maine 15 Idaho 25 Illinois 35 Ohio 45 Alaska
3 New Hampshire 16 Vermont 26 Missouri 36 Arkansas 46 Massachusetts
7 Mississippi 17 Utah 27 Montana 37 Arizona 47 Nevada
8 Minnesota 18 Wisconsin 28 North Carolina 38 Georgia 48 Hawaii
9 Maryland 19 Louisiana 29 Nebraska 39 Texas 49 New York
10 Michigan 20 New Mexico 30 Tennessee 40 Connecticut 50 California

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Note: Delaware, Iowa, Maine, and New Hampshire currently have identical homeownership rates.

Happiness Indicator #7: Your Work

As the old saying goes, “The Devil makes work for idle hands….” Better than to occupy yourself with occupation and earn (hopefully) enough money to live on happily in the process.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest employment data, there are around 157 million Americans in the nation’s labor force. Most American workers are employed in the service sector (around 71%, accounting for a grand total of 107.8 million people).

The largest sectors in the services sector are trade, transportation, and utilities, followed by education and health services, profession and business services, and leisure and hospitality.

In addition, around 22.5 million Americans work in government and 12.9 million work in the manufacturing industry. Lastly, around 16 million people are self-employed.

The job market, and its work opportunities, vary wildly in the U.S. from state to state, as each state has its own economy and its own industries.

South Carolina has the honor of enjoying the highest employment rate in the nation, with the number of unemployed residents at only 2.3%. Interestingly, South Carolina has one of the lowest labor participation rates in the country – just 58%.

At the other end of the spectrum sits Alaska, which has suffered an ongoing statewide recession and has seen the fastest rate of job losses since 2015.

Happiness Indicator #7: Your Work

Top Quintile 2nd Quintile 3rd Quintile 4th Quintile 5th Quintile
1 South Carolina 11 Massachusetts 20 Missouri 31 Connecticut 41 Ohio
1 Utah 12 Idaho 20 Tennessee 31 Illinois 42 Kentucky
1 Vermont 12 Maine 23 Montana 31 North Carolina 43 Washington
4 North Dakota 14 Florida 23 Oklahoma 31 Oregon 44 Pennsylvania
5 Colorado 15 Nebraska 23 Wisconsin 31 Wyoming 45 Arizona
6 Hawaii 16 Georgia 26 Maryland 36 Nevada 46 New Mexico
6 New Hampshire 16 Indiana 26 New Jersey 37 California 47 Louisiana
6 Virginia 16 Kansas 26 Rhode Island 37 Delaware 48 West Virginia
9 Alabama 16 South Dakota 26 Texas 37 Michigan 49 Mississippi
9 Iowa 20 Minnesota 30 Arkansas 40 New York 50 Alaska

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Note: Employment rates are calculated to one-hundredth of a percentage point, meaning some states have identical rates, which is reflected in their respective placings.

Modern Recovery Services: Mental Health Treatment

As we stated at the beginning of our study report, the definition of “happiness,” as written by psychology researcher and author Sonja Lyubomirsky, says it perfectly:

The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

Modern Recovery Services, located in Tempe, Arizona, is the only behavioral health accountability and support program that can offer technology-driven results to our clients, their families, and even treatment professionals.

Modern Recovery Services offers online intensive outpatient program (IOP) options for mental health treatment, recovery coaching, adolescent therapies and programs, and other mental health services.

Contact us today to learn about all the depression treatment options available to you.

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