Do You Live in America's "Sadness Belt"?


According to a Gallup poll, most recent data shows that America has a "sadness belt" stretching from Indiana all the way down to Louisiana. West Virginia tops the list as the saddest state in the United States, while Hawaii fares much better on the other end of the spectrum, ranking first as the happiest state for the second year. According to the data, which considers well-being based off of six factors including life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and basic access, the Southern and Midwestern states are home to America’s most disgruntled, obese and depressed citizens.

The factors used by the researchers in this poll are also great indicators for our leaders as to what they need to fix in this country in order to serve the people who seem to be getting unhappier each year over their own partisan politics.

According to the report, the green states in the Top Quintile are the happiest, while the red states in the 5th Quintile are the unhappiest. 

The report, issued by Gallup and Healthways, points out the saddest states but doesn't give much insight on the roots of this wide-spread unhappiness. Healthways researcher Lindsay Sears told Buzzfeed that emotional health is a major indicator in the report, and that the trends in the belt may come from unhealthy behaviors that are spurred by emotional well-being and lack of access to public resources. An example of this, says Sears, is that residents in the belt may not be able to find something interesting to learn or do, or may have trouble finding a safe place to exercise.

The "Elite 5," states that have sustained a level of excellent well-being in the past 5 years, include Hawaii, Utah, Minnesota, Colorado, and Montana. According to the report, these states have better emotional well-being, which means they have lower levels of "daily sadness" and clinically diagnosed depression. Incidentally, they also enjoy their jobs much more than states in the belt.

These happy states also have much less obesity and enjoy reduced disease and health care issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart attack incidences. This may be because, according to the report, these states tend to exercise more and smoke less.

Ironically, the states that are the unhappiest and consequently more likely to face these health issues are also the states that usually vote Republican and therefore are more likely to oppose Obamacare.

It is also noteworthy that while many states didn’t shift positions on the list too significantly in the past years, certain states faced drastic changes most of them adversely. An example would be Alaska, which ranked as the fourth happiest state in 2011, but dropped down all the way to 31 this year. North Dakota also saw a drop in their overall happiness, as they went from 2nd happiest state down to 19th.

These numbers, while interesting, should serve as an indicator to our leaders that it’s time to set partisanship aside and work on issues that are truly important to people today.