These Are the Unhappiest States in America
You may not think your state affects your happiness, but experts agree location plays a role. A WalletHub report analyzed 28 happiness factors — like adequate sleep, volunteering, and hours spent at work — to uncover the unhappiest states, including the most miserable state in the Southwest (page 9) and the most troubled state in the South (page 18).
- Happiness rating: 49.52
- Worst score: overall Emotional & Physical Well-Being (34th place)
Although Michigan ranks fifth in the fewest work hours — contributing to its decent Working Environment ranking (26th place) — it struggles in the personal wellness category. We estimate the Great Lakes State floats in the middle of health factors like adequate sleep and adult depression.
Next: At least this coastal state is beautiful.
17. South Carolina
- Happiness rating: 48.26
- Worst score: overall Emotional and Physical Well-Being (38th)
To arrive at the overall ranking, states received scores in three categories: Emotional & Physical Well-Being, Work Environment, and Community & Environment. South Carolina has a strong Community & Environment category (13th place), which makes sense; it’s a beautiful place. But it’s not enough to keep the Palmetto State off our list of the most unhappy states.
Next: At least this state can celebrate college football.
- Happiness rating: 48.19
- Worst score: adequate sleep rate (46th)
The Buckeye State ranked right in the middle (No. 25) for Community and Work Environment — not so bad. But its other categories scored poorly. Notably, its worst subcategory score indicates residents don’t get nearly enough sleep.
Next: At least this state is home to the most delicious maple syrup.
- Happiness rating: 48.18
- Worst scores: overall Community & Environment ranking (48th)
Vermont is a mixed bag; it ranks as the No. 1 safest state in the U.S. — a huge accomplishment. However, the Green Mountain State falls toward the bottom of so many other categories, it can’t recover. With the fewest work hours of any region, its residents struggle to create positive communities.
Next: This state has the highest rate of a mental health disorder.
- Happiness rating: 48.05
- Worst score: highest share of adult depression (50th)
Oregon residents work the fewest hours (2nd place) and participate in sports the most (3rd place), which seems like a recipe for happiness. However, the Beaver State struggles with depression. Maybe it’s the weather; Oregon only has 144 sunny days a year.
Next: Your personal and work lives are starkly different in this state.
- Happiness rating: 49.81
- Worst score: overall Emotional and Physical Well-Being (36th)
Despite Maine ranking second of all states in safety, it ranks low in the personal wellness category and doesn’t do too hot in the Community & Environment category either. Surprisingly, if you live in Maine, you likely have a pretty satisfying professional life. The Pine Tree State ranks 10th of all states in Work Environment.
Next: Would you work more hours to live in a beautiful state?
- Happiness rating: 48.90
- Worst score: highest suicide rate (48th), most work hours (48th)
Maybe it’s the gorgeous mountain scenery; Wyoming ranked decently in Community & Environment (22nd of all states). However, the Cowboy State’s high suicide rate and harsh amount of work hours hurt its happiness.
Next: At least this state has a great music scene.
- Happiness rating: 46.13
- Worst score: overall Emotional and Physical Well-Being (41st)
Despite a high Work Environment score (8th place), Tennessee is in the bottom 20% of states for its Emotional and Physical Well-Being and Community & Environment rankings. The Volunteer State could elevate its happiness by focusing on volunteering in the community, among other things.
Next: At least this state serves delicious green chile.
10. New Mexico
- Happiness rating: 43.35
- Worst scores: lowest income growth (47th), highest long-term unemployment rate (50th)
Known for its art, nature, and culinary scene, the Land of Enchantment has some pros. But its happiness rate is not one of them. In addition to facing a huge Work Environment problem, New Mexico has the 47th highest suicide rate and 46th highest divorce rate.
Next: At least this state has a jazzy music scene.
- Happiness rating: 42.76
- Worst score: overall Emotional and Physical Well-Being (45th)
Missouri’s main issue may be its mediocrity. Hold on — we’re not saying the Show-Me State is a terrible place. They have jazz music, gorgeous lakes, and a great sports scene. But Missouri lands in the middle of so many important rankings, it can’t recover, especially in the Emotional & Physical Well-Being category.
Next: The economy of this state is killing its residents’ happiness.
- Happiness rating: 41.63
- Worst scores: least safe (50th), low volunteer rate (49th), low sports participation (49th)
With a dismal Work Environment ranking, Mississippi’s economy is struggling. On top of this hardship, residents face a high divorce rate (47th place), scarily unsafe neighborhoods, and little help from volunteers in the community.
Next: At least this state is home to beautiful horses.
- Happiness rating: 39.42
- Worst scores: highest share of adult depression (47th), lowest adequate sleep rate (48th)
The Bluegrass State is sad and sleepy — and it contributes to their poor ranking as the 48th worst state for overall Emotional & Physical Well-Being. They squeeze into the top half of states for the other two categories (19th best for work, community, and the environment), but it’s not enough to get off the list of unhappiest states.
Next: This “sweet home” state isn’t so happy.
- Happiness rating: 39.35
- Worst score: overall Emotional & Physical Well-Being (46th)
With a low sports participation rate (45th place), Alabama struggles in the Well-Being category. It doesn’t do much better with its other rankings (43rd place in Community & Environment, 39th place in Work Environment), landing the Heart of Dixie in the middle of the top 10 unhappiest states.
Next: Lucky number 47 — or not.
- Happiness rating: 38.89
- Worst score: least safe (48th)
Oklahoma became the 47th state in 1907; it also ranks a poor 47th place in Emotional & Physical Well-Being. Sooners live in unsafe communities (48th place), but at least they’re financially safe, with a 3rd-place finish for high income growth.
Next: The worst Community & Environment ranking in the U.S.
- Happiness rating: 38.21
- Worst scores: highest suicide rate (49th), most work hours (50th)
Ouch. Alaskans work more hours than any other state and face the second-highest suicide rate in the country. Although a beautiful place to visit, the “Last Frontier” has the worst Community & Environment ranking. Alaska’s upside — the second lowest long-term unemployment rate — isn’t enough to turn around its Work Environment ranking (49th place).
Next: The worst Work Environment ranking in the U.S.
- Happiness rating: 37.15
- Worst scores: lowest volunteer rate (46th), highest divorce rate (49th), least safe (49th)
Contributing to its ranking at the worst Work Environment in the U.S., Louisianians work more hours than anyone else. They don’t feel very safe in their communities, they’re more likely to get divorced, and they don’t seem to love volunteering. Ouch.
Next: The worst Emotional & Physical Well-Being ranking in the U.S.
- Happiness rating: 36.61
- Worst score: overall Emotional & Physical Well-Being (50th)
Given its Well-Being score, it’s no surprise Arkansas has the third-highest share of adult depression (48th place) and lowest sports participation rate (50th place). The bright side: It just squeaks into the top half of states for its Community & Environment.
Next: This state is the unhappiest in America.
1. West Virginia
- Happiness rating: 33.42
- Worst scores: highest share of adult depression (49th), lowest adequate sleep rate (49th),
Depression and lack of sleep clearly affect happiness, as evidenced by West Virginia, the unhappiest state in America. The Mountain State scores nearly last in the Well-Being and Work categories (49th and 48th respectively).
Of course, having a statewide low ranking doesn’t mean all individuals are automatically unhappy. “Based on my extensive research, I would say that intentional positivity is the key to a happy life,” explains Carolyn M. Youssef-Morgan, Redding Chair of Business at Bellevue University. “… Positivity is a choice,” she added, explaining that roughly 40% of happiness is determined by our ability to consciously choose contentment.
Erika Rawes and Ali Harrison also contributed to this report.