Every year, Wallethub puts together a study on the 50 happiest cities in America. Of course, happiness is a hard thing to measure in your own soul, let alone a city, but there are a few markers. The study takes into account things like mental health diagnoses, physical activity, pay scale, sleep rates, vacation days used and divorce rate to put together what we might call a “loose” list of where communities seem to be faring well and where they’re, well, not.
This year, the happiest city surveyed was Fresno, California. With all scores tallied, Fresno had an overall score of 73.66, which made it the highest overall of every city. Not far behind were Bismarck and Fargo, North Dakota at numbers two and three, with Madison, Wisconsin and San Jose, California rounding out the top five. So they’re doing something right on the West Coast and the Northern boarder, clearly.
Here’s a map that can give you more details. The scale goes from dark purple (unhappy) to light blue (happy).
South Burlington, Vermont; Lincoln, Nebraska; Columbia, Maryland; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and and Santa Rosa, California make up the rest of the top ten, which are a little more spread out and makes definitive reasonings a little harder to trace. The study finds that nice weather and fair wages do make some impact on cities’ overall mental state, but it can’t account for everything.
On the global scale, the U.S. is a pretty unhappy place. Despite being one of the wealthiest nations on earth, the U.S. comes in as the 18th happiest country in the world, trailing the Nordic countries, several European nations, Australia and New Zealand. Experts are divided on just why that is, but income inequality, a lack of strong social support systems and personal liberty are all highlighted as common sources of happiness.
Wallethub’s list caps at 180, and the bottom is largely made up of Southern cities like Memphis, Tennessee; Mobile, Alabama; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can see the full list and read more about the methodology here.