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The happiest states in America

10. Iowa

• Well-Being Index score: 68.2
• Life expectancy: 79.7 years (16th highest)
• Percentage of population that is obese: 28.1% (tied-20th highest)
• Median household income: $50,957 (23rd highest)
• Percentage that has high school diploma: 91.6% (8th highest)

(Photo: C. VanHook, aka vanhookc, Flickr)


The happiest states in America

By Ashley C. Allen, Thomas C. Frohlich and Alexander E.M. Hess, 24/7 Wall St.

A Midwestern state has toppled Hawaii from the top of the nation's Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index -- even though it didn't even crack the top 10 in 2012. Hawaii tumbled to No. 8.

Well-being effectively reflects health, employment, education and the local environment, said Dan Witters, research director of the index. More than 176,000 people from all 50 states were interviewed last year for the index, which measures Americans' physical and emotional health.

A strong economy and a healthy, educated workforce can improve well-being, Witters suggested -- just as strong well-being may also influence further development. “There’s a lot of things that employers or communities can do structurally, culturally, legislatively, that can positively effect change around well-being,” he told 24/7 Wall St.

In states with high well-being scores, residents were less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise regularly and learn new things every day. These states also enjoyed the positive outcomes of such behaviors, including lower obesity rates and other common health problems.

Yet a number of the highest-ranking states were not especially wealthy. That's because although it's true that “for the most part, well-being goes up with income,” Witters said, factors such as emotional health eventually tend to level out: For individuals, “emotional health scores kind of hit their peak at about $75,000 a year. And after that point, they really don’t get any better.”

However, while states with high well-being scores did not necessarily have high incomes, they often had other advantages, such as high educational attainment and low unemployment.

Click on the photo above to see America's happiest states. And to see America's most miserable states, visit 247WallSt.com:

Methodology: 24/7 Wall St. reviewed all 50 U.S. states based on their scores in the Gallup-Healthways 2013 Well-Being Index. Gallup-Healthways calculated a national well-being score as well as one for each state, assigning scores from 0 to 100, with 100 representing ideal well-being. In generating the rank, Gallup combined six separate indices, measuring access to basic needs, healthy behavior, work environment, physical health, life evaluation and optimism, and emotional health. In addition to the index, 24/7 Wall St. considered data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey, including median income, poverty levels, and the percentage of adults with a high school diploma or higher. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we reviewed state unemployment rates as of December 2013. We also reviewed 2010 statistics for life expectancy at birth and deaths from heart disease, as well as 2011 data on prescription drugs, published by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. We also considered state violent crime rates in 2012 from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report Program.