Does location really affect people’s overall happiness? Wallet Hub’s recent report, which examined all 50 states across 31 metrics, suggests that the answer is yes.
These metrics included depression rate, sports participation, and income growth. Money, however, was less central to the analysis than one might imagine: Happiness only increases with wealth up to an annual income of $75,000, after which it more or less plateaus. What seemed to matter more significantly was if people were able to spend time with people they love and do activities they find enjoyable.
So, how does Washington measure up?
Overall, pretty well. The state was ranked 17th (out of 50) for average happiness levels and made it into the top 10 for “community and environment” and “workplace environment” measures. Pulling the average score down, however, was the metric for “emotional and physical wellbeing,” where Washington ranked 29 — lower than average.
Washington also ranked 10th in terms of safety, 11th for number of work hours, and 16th for income growth.
According to the report, Hawaii came out on the top as the happiest state, and West Virginia was deemed least happy.
However, according to positive developmental psychologist Christine Weinkauff Duranso, such studies are ultimately inconclusive.
“Some research suggests that geography has a strong influence on happiness (think living in sunny Southern California compared to rainy Seattle, for instance),” she said on Wallethub.com. “Other research suggests that this influence is short lived; initially, a move may increase or decrease your happiness, but you may return to your original baseline happiness somewhere between 2-5 years. More studies are needed to speak to this definitively.”
She added that people’s individual personalities play a large role in their ability to find happiness from place to place — some people are more flexible than others.
“I sure do love the weather and the mountains in Southern California,” she said, “but I would bet money that I could be happy just about anywhere, as long as I had the right gear to get outside year-round.”
Read more about the study’s methodology and findings, as well as comments on the study from experts like Duranso, at wallethub.com.