The Happiest State in America Seems Logical — But the Runner Up Is a Shocker

It turns out love counts for a lot.

What do you associate with happiness? For many people, it's beaches, islands, flip-flops, and a laid-back island vibe. (Looking at you, Barack Obama.)

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Hawaii ranked as the happiest state in the nation in a recent Gallup poll — the state's sixth time topping the list since Gallup and Healthways began tracking well-being back in 2008.

For all those reasons, then, it may surprise many people to learn that the second happiest state in America is (wait for it) Alaska... and it has been ranked this way for three straight years now. Yes, the very same state where it's rather cold and the shaka brah lifestyle is not really a thing. That said, Alaska led all states in what the poll called "social well-being," which describes having supportive relationships and love in a person's life. In a nutshell, love beats sand and sea when it comes to providing joy. (Who knew?)

FWIW, Hawaii residents lead the nation in the financial, community, and physical well-being factors, according to the poll.

The data are based on more than 177,000 interviews with U.S. adults across all 50 states, conducted throughout the entire year. The so-called "Well-Being Index" is calculated on a scale of zero to 100, where zero represents the lowest possible well-being and 100 is absolute tops. The nation's overall index score was 62.1 — actually measurably happier than the previous two years, so go America! — with Hawaii coming in at 65.2 and Alaska at 64.

As the poll has shown in prior years, well-being follows a regional pattern: Outside of the two states not in the continental U.S., the happiest ones are located in the Northern Plains and the Mountain West, in addition to pockets of the Northeast and Southwest. The states with the lowest well-being are located in the South and the industrial Midwest. Sorry, West Virginia: You're the least happy state for the eighth straight year.

Another surprise for folks who associate beach vibes with happiness: California did not make the top 10.

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