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And the happiest state is. . .Louisiana?

December 17, 2009 | 11:00 am

Measures of the quality of life in various states are closely tied to the individual levels of happiness of the people who live in those states, according to a ponderous publication on the science of happiness appearing today in the journal Science.

The careful, mathematical analysis by British researchers showed that Louisiana was the happiest state, followed by Hawaii and Florida. California ranked a distant 46th. Ouch. New York is the most miserable, er, uh, least-happy state.

The researchers, led by professor Andrew Oswald from the University of Warwick, examined data from a random sample of 1.3 million U.S. citizens on life satisfaction. They compared those findings to a 2003 study that considered objective indicators for each individual state, such as weather, coastal land, public land, parks, hazardous waste sites, commute time, crime, air quality, teacher-student ratios, local taxes, cost of living and other factors. When comparing the two tables, they found a very close match between how happy people say they are and the estimated quality-of-life in their state.

"The beauty of our statistical method is that we are able to look below the surface of American life -- to identify the deep patterns in people's underlying happiness from Alabama to Wyoming," Oswald said in a news release.

Of Louisiana's top ranking, he noted that some of the data collection preceded Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But Oswald stills believes the state is happy because of, well, low expectations. "Bargains in life are usually found outside the spotlight," he noted.

But we wanted to know, what about California? Is life really so bad here?

Yes, Oswald replied in an e-mail.

"California does poorly because of its congestion, high property prices, and in parts, its air quality. It does well on sunshine hours, of course, but not well enough to outweigh other things like the long commutes. It may also be that Californians spend a lot of time comparing themselves with the rich citizens around them -- usually a recipe for human unhappiness."

Happy holidays!

-- Shari Roan

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Comments (7)

"Questionable" is just the beginning of criticism that should be leveled at this British study finding Louisiana as the happiest state. What a crock! In many categories, Louisiana is the poorest, sickest, most dangerous and less- educated state in the country. This is not the stuff of happiness.

Oh, but, lead researcher Andrew Oswald claims the "happiness" result must be due to the fact that folks in Louisiana just have lower expectations. My God, that's what bigots in the old South said about Blacks.

They're still talking about eugenics in Louisiana. One of its legislators wants to sterilize the poor, while paying for babies from college graduates, says Ethic Soup blog at:

A few statistics should prove my point: Louisiana's poverty rate is 19.2 percent, the second highest rate in the nation; More than 26 percent of Louisiana children in live in poverty; Louisiana has the highest percentage in the nation of families with children headed by a single parent -- 35 percent; Louisiana is cited as the state where children are the most at risk for homelessness; the state has the highest juvenile incarceration rate in the nation; Louisiana ranks 50th, the worst in the nation in overall health indicators, such as disease rate; Louisiana is a national leader in the per capita production of hazardous wastes and in the amount of chemicals released into our air, water and soil; and Louisiana ranks 45th for child death rate and 47th for the rate of teen deaths by accident, homicide or suicide.

But, according to the Brits, it's the happiness state in our union.

New York the most miserable state? Perhaps the researchers don't realize that New Yorkers ENJOY complaining about being miserable.

Yawn...another survey telling me how I should feel. Having lived several years in Florida, the fact that this survey puts them at 3rd-happiest state in the country only invalidates most of their other conclusions...Miami has more road rage per capita than L.A. does!!

I have always been suspicious of scientists trying to QUANTIFY the quality of life...

Californians unhappy? Can anyone say illegal immigration and anchor babies?

" It may also be that Californians spend a lot of time comparing themselves with the rich citizens around them -- usually a recipe for human unhappiness." that is a pretty assuming statement! There are people like that everywhere.. all around the world... I'm not like that.. people I know arent like that...this is another example of Europeans being jealous of our great ways of life in the United States. The professor has obviously fallen trap to stereotypes. I love the sunshine in California! I dont deal with much traffic, I rent, so no property tax.. the air does suck, but not all the time. I love California!

I dont necessarily think Louisianians have a low standard of living, but they just appreciate the little things in life and are just happy to be alive. As for California, they are just too money hungry which makes their lives more complicated.

Having lived in California, North Carolina, and finally settling down in Louisiana. I have to say that Louisiana is the most laid back state I have ever encountered. The food is excellent, the people are always friendly, southern hospitality is taken very seriously, and at times it can be an on going party. Family is a big deal, along with hunting, fishing and farming. (I know some people look at farming as a less-educated type of work, but I can guarantee the average educated American can't do it).
People in Louisiana like to get together all of the time and have crawfish boils drink Abita, and have a good ol' time. And as other viewers have said that we are the poorest, sickest, and less-educated state in the country? I would like to personally invite you to Louisiana to come visit me and I'll take you on a tour of your wonderful state so you can see why we are the happiest state in the U.S. I will take you to our rural farms and city's, Baton Rouge, LSU, New Orleans and the French Quarter, Avery Island, Black Bayou in Monroe, and maybe take you fishing out on the swamp; for this is the "sportsman paradise" state.
I hope I've shed some light on the great state of Louisiana and cleared up some misunderstandings.


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