Tony Dobrowolski | Out of the Pages: Try and be happy where you are


PITTSFIELD >> Are you unhappy living and working in Massachusetts? Do you think you'd be better off somewhere else? Here's a word of caution. Be careful what you wish for.

A new survey shows that happiness may depend on the state that you live in. Massachusetts isn't ranked in the top 10. But the data shows that our state has some real pluses that we often take for granted and may often overlook.

Wallethub recently released its 2016 Happiest States in America list, and Massachusetts ranked in the top half, placing 16th overall.

Does this mean that Bay State residents are generally happier than the people who live in the 34 states ranked behind us and the District of Columbia? Or that the residents of West Virgina, which is ranked 51st, are the country's most miserable people? I couldn't say. But the survey draw some interesting conclusions on where people are happiest and where they're not.

The survey focused on 28 key metrics than ranged from emotional health to income levels to sports participation rates. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing maximum happiness. The overall scores for each state were calculated by using the weighted average across all metrics, which is what the rankings are based on.

Massachusetts ranked 15th in emotional well and physical being, and 17th in the community and environment sector, but ended up smack in the middle (26th) in work environment. That's not the best, but it's the lowest that Massachusetts placed in any of the other ranked categories, which is a plus.

In the best state versus worst state competition, Massachusetts made the top five for top states in several categories: lowest obesity rate (fourth); lowest suicide rate (third); and tied for fifth with Vermont in lowest number of work hours, which could be why our state's work environment isn't ranked any isn't higher.

Our best finish in all of those categories was second behind Vermont as the safest state to live in. Interestingly, all of the top five finishers in that category were New England states, with New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine ranking third through fifth.

There's merit in the argument that living in Massachusetts under the current economic conditions isn't easy, but consider what's going on in elsewhere.

You could live in Mississipi, which is the 48th ranked happiest state overall, the least safest state to live in, has the country's highest obesity rate, contains the lowest percentage of people that participate in sports, and is ranked fifth from the bottom among the places that have the highest divorce rates.

Or you could live in Utah. Now, here's a conundrum. Utah is ranked as the happiest state in the country to live in, is first in work environment, has the country's highest volunteerism rate, lowest divorce rate and lowest rate of heart attacks. But it's also ranked among the top five (47th out of 51) among areas in the country that have the highest suicide rates. So are people who live in Utah actually happier, or do they just seem that way? One wonders if high suicide rates have more to do with the culture inherent in that part of the country than the lifestyle. The rest of the bottom five, Wyoming, New Mexico, Alaska and Montana, in that order, are also located in the west.

Here are some other findings: Hawaii has the lowest depression rate at 10.7 percent, which is 2.2 times lower than Oregon, which has the highest.

The District of Columbia has the lowest number of suicides per 100,000 people, three times lower than highest ranked Montana.

Looking for work? Go to North Dakota, which has the country's longest long-term unemployment rate (13.1 percent), almost four times lower than the highest area, the District of Columbia at 49.2 percent. The nation's capital also has the country's highest divorce rate at 31 percent.

Utah may be ranked the happiest state overall, but second ranked Minnesota is first in the emotional and physical well-being category. North Dakota ranks first in the community and environment sector.

So there you have it. The best and the worst. Living and working in Massachusetts isn't so bad, is it? Make sure to smile today.

Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at


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