WASHINGTON — People in sunny, outdoorsy states — Louisiana, Hawaii, Florida — say they’re the happiest Americans, and researchers think they know why.
A new study comparing self-described pleasant feelings with objective measures of good living found these folks generally have reason to feel fine.
Hoosiers, however, were among the least happy in the country — third from the bottom of the list. Indiana does have some things working against it on the happiness front.
Through the winter, leaden skies can block out the sun for weeks at a time. We’ve still got a high unemployment rate, and we have problems with pollution. And then there are the Pacers.
The places where people are most likely to report happiness also tend to rate high on studies comparing things such as climate, crime rates, air quality and schools.
The happiness ratings were based on a survey of 1.3 million people across the country by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It used data collected over four years that included a question asking people how satisfied they are with their lives.
Economists Andrew J. Oswald of the University of Warwick in England and Stephen Wu of Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., compared the happiness ranking with studies that rated states on a variety of criteria, including availability of public land, commuting time and local taxes.
Their report in today’s edition of the journal Science found the happiest people tend to live in the states that do well in quality-of-life studies.
Oswald said “this is the first objective validation of ‘happiness’ data,” which is something he said economists have been reluctant to use in the past.
Ranking No. 1 in happiness was Louisiana, home of Dixieland music and Cajun/Creole cooking.
Oswald urged a bit of caution in that ranking, however, noting that part of the happiness survey occurred before Hurricane Katrina struck the state in 2005, and part of it took place later. Nevertheless, he said, “We have no explicit reason to think there is a problem” with the ranking.
I heard this story on NPR today and was stunned that Indiana ranked so poorly. Then on second thought, I understand some of the criterion. But still….third from last?