Monday, December 21, 2009

Elements of happiness

A recent study by Andrew Oswald (University of Warwick in England) and his team ranked the US states according to their residents' life satisfaction. At KJ&J's suggestion, I started to collect information and tried to find out what make some states happier while others less cheerful.

Geographically speaking, the Sun Belt appears to be happier, with the exception of California. The Rust Belt seems to be pretty gloomy. I guess weather does affect the mood a lot.

There are also socio-economic aspects. The chart below is trying to decipher the meanings of living environment, race, income, health, education, family, religion, safety, and politics, in relation to the notion of happiness.

(click to enlarge)

The comparison doesn't seem to be very conclusive. But at least we can see some tendencies:

- Curiously enough, race, money, and family don't seem to matter much.
- High density can cause stress but low density doesn't necessarily make you happier.
- Fat states tend to be happier.
- The pattern of the education column looks quite random but at least the percentages of Bachelors and higher in the top 16 happy states are all under 30%.
- People who live in the top 10 happy states obviously care more about religion than the bottom 10. Actually, the area of "Sun Belt minus California" is called the Bible Belt.
- Crimes don't seem to affect people's mood much either. In fact, the crime rates of the top 6 are quite high.
- Politically, I think everybody can see blue concentrating at the bottom.

Living in the least cheery state of all, I actually consider melancholy a cool thing. (Yay Charlie Brown!) It gets you to think, to contemplate life with the will of improvement, not merely satisfaction. I would rather be "unhappy" than being a fat ignorant conservative, living in the suburbs with no ambition, and going to the church every morning...

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