The 10 Saddest States in America

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you live in the South or Midwest, you might be miserable.

That is, at least according to the most recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a poll that surveyed more than 178,000 Americans on questions related to physical and emotional health, life evaluation, access to basic necessities and work. All the Top 10 most miserable states were located within the South or Midwest, and West Virginia once again took the lead for the fifth year in a row.

But nobody's perfect -- the "obesity rate has generally increased across the U.S. each year since 2008," according to Gallup. And even wealthier states like Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut scored in the bottom 10 for job creation. Still, the following 10 states take the cake – sometimes, literally – for general misery.

1. West Virginia (Well-being score: 61.4)

Going by Gallup's numbers, West Virginia can't seem to get it together. Beginning with health concerns, its residents ranked with:

  • the third highest diabetes rate, at 15.9%
  • the second highest obesity rate, at 34.4%
  • the second lowest exercise rate, at 47.1%

Residents were pessimistic about the future of their surrounding area – their 48.1% score in the "city optimism" index is the lowest in the nation. They had the bleakest view of the nation's economy, with an "economic confidence" index at -44.1 (the national average is -16), and the lowest percentage (36.1) of people working for a full-time employer in the country. However, the state only has a current 5.9% unemployment rate, and it ranked No. 14 in Gallup's "work environment" index.

In summation, West Virginia ranked last in healthy behavior, life evaluation, emotional health, physical health and basic access to necessities in Gallup's report.

2. Kentucky (Well-being score: 63)

Like West Virginia, Kentucky hasn't budged from its position in five years. The state had the ninth highest obesity rate at 30.6%. Its job creation index of 16 tied with five other states (Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Alabama and Arkansas) and residents had a low economic confidence outlook at -28. Gallup also found 30.2% of Kentucky residents smoked, the highest in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kentucky has the sixth highest unemployment rate in America at 7.7%.

3. Mississippi (Well-being score: 63.7)

Mississippi ranks as the most religious state in the country, with 61.1% identifying themselves as "very religious." It's also the fattest, with 35.4% of the population considered obese. It ranks third in the least number of insured people, has the seventh highest rate of underemployment and ranks just above Kentucky with a 7.5% unemployment rate. But, Mississippi was one of the 11 states to make the most improvements in well-being score since 2010, with an improvement of 0.7 points.

4. Alabama (Well-being score: 64.1)

Alabama scored first in percentage of residents with diabetes (16.9) and second-to-last in exercise, but its obesity numbers were only 1% higher than the national average of 27.1%. Alabama is in the bottom tenth place for job creation and in the top fourth for businesses letting their employees go.

5. Ohio (Well-being score: 64.2)

Ohio came in eighth place for highest obesity rate, twelfth for highest diabetes rate, seventh for least amount of exercise and tenth for least amount of fresh produce consumed. Ohio residents had the fifth least optimistic view of their area, with only 53.4% of people having high hopes for their surrounding area.

6. Arkansas (64.3)

Arkansas citizens had the fifth highest percentage of obese citizens (32.2), are the sixth least likely to eat fresh produce (54.6%) and had the second highest proportion of people without health care (22.5%). In 2013, only 35.6% of businesses were hiring, the fifth lowest in the nation. It currently has a 7.3% unemployment rate.

7. Tennessee (Well-being score: 64.3)

Tennessee scored seventh highest in obesity, sixth lowest in exercise frequency and fourth highest in percentage of the population afflicted by diabetes. It currently has a 7.2% unemployment rate. The state tied with Montana—the fifth happiest state in the nation—in eighth lowest place for the economic confidence index.

8. Missouri (Well-being score: 64.5)

Missouri fell from No. 38 in 2012 to No. 43 in overall well-being last year. Unlike the aforementioned states, Missouri doesn't have a rampant obesity or diabetes problem, at least not according to Gallup's numbers. And while the population is third least-likely to eat fresh produce, they came in at almost exactly the national average for exercise rate. The state is currently at a 6% unemployment rate.

9. Oklahoma (Well-being score: 64.7)

Oklahoma residents had the tenth highest obesity percentage rate at 30.5, and the fifth highest in diabetes at 14.1%, possibly because they polled the lowest in percentage of the population who ate fresh produce at only 52.3%. And while they had the seventh lowest economic confidence outlook, Oklahomans remained confident in their home area, polling the eleventh highest in the nation with 64.3% having a positive view of their surrounding area. The state also has a pretty low unemployment rate, at only 5.2%, or fourteenth place in America.

10. Louisiana (Well-being score: 64.9)

Home of gators, six-inch cockroaches and stifling humidity, Louisiana ranked No. 10 as the least happiest states by Gallup, even though it tied Indiana in its well-being score. While Louisiana has the eleventh best unemployment rate at 4.9%, the state also had the twelfth lowest payroll-to-population percentage recorded by Gallup last year. Residents had the fourth highest obesity rate at 32.7% and the eighth highest obesity percentage rate, tied with South Carolina at 13.9%. Residents scored thirty-fifth place for exercising and were just behind Oklahoma in eating the least amount of produce.

--Written by Craig Donofrio for MainStreet

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