A new Gallup survey of 176,000 people in 50 states has found that Alaskans are happiest, and people in Western states are generally happier than those in the South and Rust Belt.
Gallup and Healthways began studying well-being in 2008. This year, Alaska and Hawaii top the list, followed by Western states South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. At the bottom of the list are West Virginia and Kentucky.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranks states on a scale from 1 to 100 in five criteria: purpose (motivation and satisfaction with work), social (love and relationships), financial (well-managed economic life and security), community (feeling safe, liking where you live), and physical (health and energy). The index was updated in 2014.
The survey shows a number of regional trends, mostly higher well-being in the Northern Plains and Mountain West, with some higher rankings in the Northeast. The least-happy states range from the South into the industrial Midwest.