West Virginia may be “almost heaven,” but we’re not necessarily all that happy about our lives in the Mountain State. MagnifyMoney researchers set out to find which state is home to the happiest people and West Virginia ranks 48th, just ahead of Rhode Island (who knew?) and Louisiana.
MagnifyMoney said it based its rankings on 20 factors in the categories of health, lifestyle and prosperity. “Based on an analysis of those elements, our study found the state where you live may impact your baseline level of happiness.”
Our state has several things going against it. We are older and less healthy than most states so those are big factors. West Virginia’s health rank was 49th, ahead of only Alabama.
We did a little better in the “lifestyle” category, but not much. West Virginia ranked 46th, ahead of Nevada, Mississippi, Rhode Island (poor Rhode Island), and Louisiana. Interestingly, our best ranking is in “economic stability” at 36th.
MagnifyMoney’s survey found that overall, Minnesota is the happiest state. You might think with all that cold weather that Minnesotans would be a miserable lot, but they achieved the number one ranking by finishing in the top six in health, lifestyle and prosperity.
Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and columnist Thomas Friedman summed up succinctly what it means to be from The North Star State: “I’m from Minnesota. I’m an optimist.” That kind of buoyancy apparently contributes to an overall feeling of well-being.
Notably, Midwesterners are generally happier than most folks. MagnifyMoney found that “Of the ten happiest states in our ranking, six of them—Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa—are in the Midwest. In contrast, of the top ten unhappiest states, seven—Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia—are in the South.
I conducted an informal and highly unscientific poll of my Twitter followers to see what contributes most to their happiness. The question read, “In your opinion, the MOST important element of happiness is?” I provided four options and out of 383 responses, 30 percent said a “loving family,” 27 percent said “financial security,” 22 percent said “faith in God,” and 21 percent said “good health.”
Psychology Today reports money is important to happiness, but only to certain degree. “Money buys freedom from worry about the basics in life—housing, food, and clothing. Genetic makeup, life circumstances, achievements, marital status, social relationships, even your neighbors—all influence how happy you are, or can be.”
Surely a big part of happiness is state of mind. Abraham Lincoln, who suffered from “melancholy” as it was called back then, said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
I’ve spent all my life in West Virginia and, no, I would not describe us as the most cheerful of folk, but that’s okay. My late father used to describe his own journey as “trudging along,” but when life is hard, just getting by is a struggle and happiness may feel like a luxury.
For those who must have a more consistent level of happiness, there’s always Minnesota.