This Is the Unhappiest State in America

State Puzzle


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If You’re Happy and You Know It

There are plenty of factors that play into overall happiness, and the past few years have been a challenge for some. COVID-19 impacted travel, businesses, and incidentally, happiness. But how are things looking now? WalletHub conducted a study to evaluate happiness in each state, comparing them among three primary dimensions: emotional and physical well-being, community and environment, and work environment. The dimensions were further broken down into 31 different metrics and graded on a 100-point scale. Cheapism compiled the results, ranked from the least happy to the happiest, and included explanations of why each state is so unhappy or happy. 

Related: 14 Cheap Ways to Hack Your Life for Happiness

View of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia at sunset from Maryland Heights
Jon Bilous/istockphoto

50. West Virginia (Unhappiest)

Surrounded by the trees of the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia has plenty of picturesque spaces. Merely considering the serenity of the landscape might make you think it’s a pretty nice place to live. If only nature was the biggest (or only) contributor to happiness. This state is considered the unhappiest in the nation, mostly due to the emotional and physical well-being of residents and the work environment. Read on to see where other states fall on the happiness scale.

Related: States With the Highest and Lowest Credit Scores

Hurricane Laura Lake Charles Louisiana Damage

49. Louisiana

When you think of Louisiana, you might picture Creole and Cajun cultures, bayous, jazz music, the historic French Quarter, and, of course, the lively Mardi Gras festival. Unfortunately, Louisiana is not as happy as it seems from the outside looking in. The state ranks second to last for work environment, has some of the lowest sports participation rates, and reports extremely low income growth. Additionally, divorce rates in Louisiana are some of the highest in the nation, and the state is one of the least-safe places to live.

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Hot Springs National Park is located in South West Arkansas by the Town of the same Name
Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto

48. Arkansas

Riddled with caves, rivers, hot springs, mountains, and an abundance of park and wilderness areas, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor excursions in Arkansas. But what makes it such an unhappy state? Nearly lowest for emotional and physical well-being, residents of Arkansas have high rates of adult depression and the state is also considered one of the least-safe places to live.

Related: Natural Hot Springs to Shake Off Winter's Chill

Welcome to Kentucky road sign

47. Kentucky

Kentucky is another Southern state that ranks extremely low in terms of the emotional and physical well-being of its people. The key components of the state’s unhappiness include low rates of adequate sleep, and some of the lowest sports participation rates. 

Aerial Shot of Golden Sunlight on Birmingham, Alabama at Sunset

46. Alabama

Home to tons of historic landmarks from the American Civil Rights Movement, Alabama has an eerie history and is considered one of the unhappiest states. People living in Alabama report low levels of emotional and physical well-being, and they also have a low adequate-sleep rate.

Mississippi State welcome sign along the US Highway 61 in the USA

45. Mississippi

Mississippi ranks as yet another unhappy Southern state. The biggest contributors to the state’s unhappiness include the emotional and physical well-being of residents and the work environment. With low volunteer rates and some of the highest divorce rates in the country, Mississippi appears to struggle with maintaining positive personal interactions. To boot, the state is considered one of the least-safe in the country.

Related: How the Pandemic Has Changed Divorce 

Two oil gas pumpjacks on the horizon of hills out on the prarie with blue sky with white clouds and blurred weeds and flowers in foreground
Susan Vineyard/istockphoto

44. Oklahoma

While it’s an affordable place to live and perfect for farmers and ranchers, Oklahoma is one of the unhappiest states. The state reports low levels of emotional and physical well-being for its inhabitants, partially due to low involvement in sports. 

Broadway pub district in downtown Nashville Tennessee USA

43. Tennessee

Nashville is the heart of the country music scene, teeming with honkey tonk bars and upbeat live music. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge bring thousands of out-of-state visitors every year, excited for fun-filled family vacations. In a state that sounds like so much fun, what is making the people who live there so unhappy? Despite being a popular destination for tourists, Tennessee ranks quite low for community, not to mention an almost equally low ranking for the emotional and physical well-being of residents. 

Related: Gatlinburg Cabin Rentals for a Cozy Winter Getaway

Aerial View of Rooftops In Downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico

42. New Mexico

If you’ve ever had a toxic job or struggled to find gainful employment, then you know how much work environment can impact happiness. New Mexico is one of the unhappiest states, mostly due to work environment. The state also has one of the highest divorce rates.

Welcome to Missouri Sign

41. Missouri

Missouri is another Midwestern state that is on the lower half of the happiness spectrum. Like many other states with lower happiness levels, the biggest factor in that rating is the emotional and physical well-being of residents. 

Related: The Coldest and Warmest Cities in Every State

Coastal Alaska

40. Alaska

Isolated from the rest of the country, Alaska is remote, vast, and full of incredible wilderness that the rest of the country has to see to believe. Traveling there is a bucket list item for thousands of Americans, which leaves plenty wondering why it’s such an unhappy state. Alaska ranks extremely low for community and environment. Most places in the state can have pretty grueling environments in terms of both weather and terrain, especially during notoriously colder months. There are also plenty of rural locations in Alaska, so it makes complete sense that there isn’t a strong sense of community. Top all of that off with the state’s low income growth and the explanation for its unhappiness is clear.

Michigan Welcome Sign

39. Michigan

Located in the Great Lakes region in the Upper Midwest, Michigan has lakes and beaches to enjoy during summer and gets lots of snow in the winter. The state leans more toward the unhappy side, mostly because of the emotional and physical well-being of its residents.

WELCOME TO OHIO - traffic sign message

38. Ohio

Ohio is one of the unhappiest states in the Midwest. The state ranks low for both work environment and emotional and physical well-being, both of which are probably due in part to this Rust Belt state’s poor economy. 

Evansville, Indiana

37. Indiana

Another unhappy Midwestern state is Indiana, which falls near the bottom for both emotional and physical well-being and community and environment.

Working Pumpjacks On Sunset

36. Texas

Texas is the second-largest state both in terms of land mass and population. It’s also one of the more unhappy states. Texas ranks at the very bottom for community and environment and also ranks low for work environment. Workers in the state work longer hours than average, and Texas is also one of the most unsafe places to live.

Related: Where to Live if You Want Better Work-Life Balance

Reno is the other, lesser known Gambling Oasis in Nevada
Jacob Boomsma/istockphoto

35. Nevada

Nevada has all the hustle, bustle, and excitement that is Las Vegas. All that city has to offer probably has lots to do with the state’s extremely high score for community and environment. With more mid-range scores for emotional and physical well-being and work environment, however, the overall happiness of this state winds up closer to the mid-section. 

Related: Must-See Vegas Attractions That Aren't on the Strip

Church Street in Burlington, Vermont

34. Vermont

Vermont is considered the safest state, has lower than average work hours, reports high sports participation rates, and has some of the highest adequate sleep rates in the nation.

South Carolina

33. South Carolina

With a shoreline full of subtropical beaches including the tourist magnets of Myrtle Beach and the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina seems to have plenty to offer. Overall, however, it’s a pretty unhappy state, ranking low for both the emotional and physical well-being of its residents and work environment. 

Kansas Wheat Harvest

32. Kansas

Landlocked in the Midwest, Kansas is known for being one of the leading agricultural states in the nation, but it’s not known for being one of the happiest. Kansas ranks on the lower end for emotional and physical well-being and low for community and environment.

Phoenix skyline and cactus

31. Arizona

Arizona has the Grand Canyon, deserts, and mountains. While the environment there is unique and stunning, the state is also known for extreme, dry heat. Perhaps that’s why the state ranks on the lower end for community and environment, resulting in a blow to the overall happiness of the state.

Skier going off small cliff

30. Colorado

Located in the western part of the country, Colorado features a diverse terrain that includes the Rocky Mountains, river canyons, and even deserts. In terms of community and environment, Colorado falls almost all the way at the bottom, but the state has some of the highest adequate sleep rates, high sports participation rates, and high income growth, all of which bring its overall happiness score up. 

Drift Fishing River Valley
Andy Eicher/istockphoto

29. Montana

If you love wilderness, Montana might seem idyllic to you. Between Glacier National Park, The Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains, the state has so much to offer. Happiness, however, is on the lower end for citizens of Montana. Emotional and physical well-being and community and environment are the two biggest contributors to the overall unhappiness in the state.

Related: Off-the-Radar Mountain Towns Across America

Castle Hill Lighthouse, Newport Rhode Island

28. Rhode Island

Known for quaint Colonial towns and serene shoreline beaches, Rhode Island has generally happy inhabitants, partially due to the fact that the state has lower-than-average working hours.

Welcome to Pennsylvania

27. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania doesn’t have a strong score for work environment, but community and environment and emotional and physical well-being are middle-of-the-road, placing the state near the center of the spectrum.

Mount Hood

26. Oregon

It's not easy being green. Nestled in the Pacific Northwest region, Oregon is known for being one of the most environmentally green places to live. But being green isn’t the equivalent to being happy. The state scores quite low for emotional and physical well-being.

Wyoming State Welcome Road sign on interstate

25. Wyoming

Although Wyoming is one of the largest states in terms of land, it is both the least populous and least densely populated state in the contiguous U.S. Wyoming ranks near the bottom for emotional and physical well-being along with community and environment. Adding to the unhappiness factor are long work hours and low income growth. 

Related: 20 Towns Where You Can Still Experience the Wild West

Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine, USA at sunrise

24. Maine

Known for its rocky coastline, abundant lobster, and beautiful lighthouses, Maine ranks as the 24th happiest state in the nation, and it’s considered the second safest state to live in. 

Aerial view of lower Manhattan NYC

23. New York

New York has so much to offer from busy cities to rural areas. The state has pretty happy inhabitants, too, with low rates for adult depression and one of the highest scores for overall emotional and physical well-being. 

Related: 40+ Free or Cheap Things to Do in New York City

Rainier National Park
Drew Payne/istockphoto

22. Washington

Washington is known for a lot of things: lush green landscapes, incredible hiking trails, fresh seafood, and apparently, happiness. Washington is the 22nd happiest state with high sports participation and high income growth levels acting as key players in that score.

Wisconsin Welcome sign at Marinette WI

21. Wisconsin

Wisconsin has good scores across the happiness spectrum, ranking especially high for work environment and on the higher end for emotional and physical well-being. 

Durham, North Carolina

20. North Carolina

North Carolina is known for having plenty of career opportunities and an impressive educational system, but it has a weak score for community and environment. 

Welcome to Georgia Sign

19. Georgia

Georgia has a little bit of everything: mountains, coastal beaches, and farmland. Outsiders might think the state offers something for everyone and assume that people who live there are pretty happy. In reality, people in Georgia are on the lower end of the spectrum for emotional and physical well-being and they have a bleak work environment.  

Direct Aerial Overview of a Vibrant Teal Ocean Seashore and Colorful Beach Umbrellas on Jupiter, Florida at Mid-Day During COVID-19 in April of 2021
Crystal Bolin Photography/istockphoto

18. Florida

No matter what state you live in, most of us know someone who spends their winters in Florida or retired to Florida to enjoy the warm weather, beaches, and salty breeze. The state has very low volunteer rates and very high divorce rates, though. 

Related: 40 RV Retirement Spots for Snowbirds

Wilmington Delaware

17. Delaware

Delaware is just on the other, lower side of the midpoint for happiness across all 50 states. Its score is pulled down due to work environment and community and environment factors.

Related: The Best and Worst Cities in America for Driving

Clouds over Corn

16. Iowa

Known for cornfields and rolling plains, Iowa is also one of the happier states. The state scores high for work environment and community and environment.

Mount Washington

15. New Hampshire

With small towns and vast wilderness, New Hampshire is a one-of-a-kind place to live. It’s also one of the happier places to live and scores pretty high for offering a good work environment. 


14. Massachusetts

States in the New England region are some of the happiest in the country. Massachusetts has high rankings for both emotional and physical well-being and work environment. Workers in the state enjoy shorter work days and high income growth.

Welcome to North Dakota

13. North Dakota

Similar to South Dakota, North Dakota has a high score for community and environment, and work environment. The state also has the second lowest divorce rates in the country and the fourth lowest long-term unemployment rate. 

mt rushmore in south dakota

12. South Dakota

Sparsely populated with prairies and forests and home to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota is quite the happy state, ranking especially high for work environment and community and environment. 

Lynchburg, Virginia, USA
Sean Pavone/istockphoto

11. Virginia

With a sprawling Atlantic coastline and a rich history, Virginia is an interesting place to live and visit. It’s also one of the happier states to live in, mainly because of an extremely positive rating for emotional and physical well-being.

Related: The Most Beautiful River in Every State

Autumn in New Haven
Welcome to Nebraska

9. Nebraska

Nebraska boasts low long-term unemployment rates and scores high for both work environment and emotional and physical well-being, making it a pretty happy state overall.

Related: 22 of the Smallest Towns in America

Dramatic Sunset - Downtown Chicago
Gian Lorenzo Ferretti Photography/istockphoto

8. Illinois

Even though it ranks quite low in the work environment and community and environment categories, Illinois ranks third for collective emotional and physical well-being.

Related: The Best of California for Budget Vacations

Pacific Ocean at Big Sur

7. California

There is plenty to see and do in California, from beaches and cities to mountains and hiking trails. California is the state with the highest income growth. 

Boise city skyline with hot air balloons and blue sky

6. Idaho

Idaho ranks third for both work environment and second for community and environment. 

State of New Jersey State

5. New Jersey

New Jersey has the second spot in terms of emotional and physical well-being. Additionally, the state has third lowest divorce rates. 

Sunset at Arches National Park.

4. Utah

Utah has breathtaking landscapes and is considered one of the best states if you like being outdoors. The state has the highest sports participation, the highest volunteer rates and lowest divorce rates in the country, and it is the fifth-safest place to live.

Blue lake with treeline in autumn color on a sunny afternoon in northern Minnesota

3. Minnesota

Home to more than 10,000 lakes, Minnesota is the third happiest state. It’s the fourth safest place to live, has low divorce rates, high volunteer rates, and high levels (second place) for adequate sleep. 

Related: These Cities and States Will Pay You to Relocate

Aerial view of Ocean City, Maryland

2. Maryland

With an abundance of coastlines and waterways, Maryland offers plenty of opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. It is also one of the happiest states, coming in near the top for emotional and physical well-being and community and environment.

Related: The Best Things To Do In Baltimore

Happy Couple Walking on Waikiki Beach at Sunrise

1. Hawaii

The only tropical state in the country, Hawaii is an archipelago that is located almost 2,000 miles from the mainland. Hawaii has incredible beaches and landscapes and is truly a state unlike any other. It ranks first for lowest rates of adult depression and can also boast low divorce rates. 

Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget