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Don’t Worry, Be (fifth) Happy


March 13, 2012

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska
- Are you feeling happy about being in Alaska?
jpg Dave Kiffer

That’s a probably a trick question this time of year. But, in general, you are happier about being here than you would be in 45 other states!

That's what the most recent Gallup/Healthways “Well Being” survey says. Every year it asks Americans how happy they are and then decides which state is the most content. The survey also uses stats about longevity, health and income to attempt to quantify these feelings.

For example, if you are long lived, healthy and wealthy, you tend to be happier. If you are not, well, you probably aren't answering the survey.

In general, it found this year that Americans are slightly less “happy” than they were last year. Of course, it probably doesn’t make most people very happy to hear that they “statistically” are less happy than they were the year before. We all like to be comparable. It is part of what makes us American. But it’s hard to optimistic when everyone around you is grumpier than last year.

The good news is: Alaska is the fifth happiest state in America.

No, they didn’t count the State of Inebriation, the State of Intoxication or the State of Confusion. Only those American states that have flags (freak flaggers need not apply) were tabulated.

Still, considering all the grumbling one hears around “The Last Frontier” it is  good to hear that, at least comparatively, we remain a lot more “content” that most of our “fellow Americans.”

For the record, the 10 “happiest” states are  (10 to 1) Montana, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Alaska, Utah, Minnesota, North Dakota and Hawaii.

Sure you would expect Hawaiians to be the most happy. That's a big 5-0 duh.  And, of course, Rocky Mountain types tend to insufferably smug (we are superior physical specimens who need less oxygen than you do!).

But Nebraska and Kansas are head scratchers.

You don’t usually think of them as happy places. Or certainly not places you would chose to go when trying to “find your happy place.” Maybe it’s just that they have spent so many generations "making do" on Great Big Flat Empty, that they have convinced themselves they are happy about it?

Two of the others make no sense at all. Minnesota? North Dakota?

In general, all these rankings seem to favor cold places. Maybe there is a glitch in the tabulation?

Anyway, people who run the risk of freezing to death on their way to the outhouse apparently consider themselves very “happy.”

The ten least happiest states are  (40 to 50) Nevada, Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Ohio, Delaware, Mississippi, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Not too many surprises there, since good health is considered a part of the "happy" equation. Most of our southern brethren and sisteren tend not to not be so healthy (cigarettes and moon pies are two of the four food groups in Dixie).

The shocker, though, is Delaware.

Corporations consider Delaware the most healthy state in which to operate (we levy no taxes, we ask no questions!) and everyone who follows the political debate knows that “corporations are people too.”

Go figure.

Looking a little closer at the Alaska results tends to yield some interesting tidbits.

Alaska has the fifth highest level of high school education in the country. For all of our arguing over education we must be doing something, kinda sorta, right.

Our life expectancy is in the upper half. Which means if we can avoid the grisly accidents that frequently claim our more “adventurous” residents, we tend to live longer than we think. Or maybe it just feels longer. Like winter. After all, this survey is about perceptions.

Perhaps most surprising is that Alaskans have the third lowest level of obesity in the country.

Gallup/Healthways has clearly never flown coach to or from the 49th State.

On the Web:

More Columns by Dave Kiffer

Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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Dave Kiffer ©2012

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