You might think that with the economy on its slow climb back to health, Americans would have gotten a little bit happier in 2011. In fact, they got a bit more miserable -- or so says the most recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
The index measures six areas of well-being on a range of 0 to 100, including life evaluation, physical health and work environment. The national score dropped slightly from 66.8 in 2010 to 66.2 in 2011 -- the lowest since the Index was launched in 2008.
Of the 10 states with the highest levels of well-being, nine are in the West and Midwest. Of the 10 with the lowest scores, five are in the South.
24/7 Wall St. wanted to identify the objective conditions that most impact well-being -- and common symptoms weren't hard to find.
In general, the states where people report the lowest levels of well-being suffer from similar woes: low median household incomes, high poverty, relatively low levels of education. Austerity measures taken by state governments to combat budget shortfalls have hindered the happiness recovery as well, Gallup says.
Perhaps the most common shared factor among the states that report the lowest well-being is poor health. Nine of the states on this list are among the 15 with the lowest life expectancies. Obesity is exceptionally high in seven. Seven also fall within the 10 states that have the highest rates of smoking. Rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes are also all particularly high.
America's 11 Most Miserable States
America's 11 Most Miserable States Revealed
Well-being index score: 65 Life expectancy: 77.6 years (14th lowest) Obesity: 22.4% (2nd lowest) Median household income: $51,001 (19th highest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 84.7% (15th lowest)
Nevada ranked worst in the nation in the basic access category, which measures how residents rate their access to necessities such as medical care, having enough money for food and satisfaction with one's community. That may not be surprising, considering that Nevada's unemployment rate is 12.6% -- the highest in the country.
The state was among the hardest hit by the housing crisis: Home values have fallen 60% since their peak in the first quarter of 2006 -- the steepest price decline in the country. An additional burden on those living in Nevada is its violent crime rate. In 2010, there were 660.6 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents, the highest rate in the nation.
Well-being index score: 65 Life expectancy: 76.2 years (8th lowest) Obesity: 30.8% (9th highest) Median household income: $41,461 (6th lowest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 83.6% (21st lowest)
Since 2010, the state's already-poor scores in the well-being categories that measure life evaluation, emotional health and physical health have all declined. The state's economy is in very poor shape: Unemployment is above the national average, the poverty rate is the 10th highest in the country and median income is the sixth-lowest in the country.
Tennessee residents' physical health and healthy behavior are also among the poorest: They have the 14th-highest rate of smoking, the ninth-highest rate of obesity, and the fifth-highest rate of heart disease.
Well-being index score: 64.9 Life expectancy: 79.7 years (12th highest) Obesity: 26.6% (23rd lowest) Median household income: $44,409 (15th lowest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 85.5% (17th lowest)
Florida's well-being scores dropped significantly from last year, pushing the its rank down from 39th to 42nd. The state's score in the well-being category that measures the work environment were among the worst -- no surprise, as the it has the sixth-highest unemployment rate -- 9.9%.
Residents also are relatively unhealthy compared to other states. Florida has the eighth-highest rates of both heart disease and diabetes. The state also has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the U.S.
Well-being index score: 64.8 Life expectancy: 77.4 years (12th lowest) Obesity: 30.5% (10th highest) Median household income: $44,301 (14th lowest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 86.9% (22nd lowest)
In a single year, Missouri's overall well-being score fell from 34th in the country to 43rd. Conditions in the state declined in every category.
Among the standout numbers: In the "life evaluation" category, the state fell from 33th to 48th. It has the 11th-highest rate of smokers, heart disease, cancer and diabetes rates that are all among the top 20, and a life expectancy that is the 12th lowest in the nation.
Well-being index score: 64.7 Life expectancy: 76.1 years (6th lowest) Obesity: 30.1% (12th highest) Median household income: $38,307 (3rd lowest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 82.9% (7th lowest)
In Arkansas, 18.45% of residents live below the poverty line, the third highest rate in the country. Residents' low life expectancy can be traced in part to a smoking rate that is the fourth highest rate in the country (22.9% of adults) and a cancer rate that's the sixth-highest.
Arkansas also ranks among the 10 lowest rates on educational attainment, and it's in the top 10 for violent crime.
Well-being index score: 64.6 Life expectancy: 75.2 years (3rd lowest) Obesity: 32.2% (3rd highest) Median household income: $40,474 (5th lowest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 82.1% (6th lowest)
Alabama is one of the poorest states, with 17.4% of the population living below the poverty line, and the residents polled for the well-being index certainly feel it. The state ranked among the 20 worst in every category, and among the 10 worst for physical health, healthy behavior and work environment.
That poor showing is easily explained, considering that Alabama has the third-highest rate of obesity, the seventh-highest rates of heart disease and cancer, and the highest rate of heart disease. Alabama also has the third-lowest life expectancy in the U.S.
Well-being index score: 64.5 Life expectancy: 77.5 years (13th lowest) Obesity: 29.2% (16th highest) Median household income: $45,090 (17th lowest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 88.1% (24th highest)
Ohio ranks among the 10 least well-off states in four of the six categories measured by the Gallup Well-Being Index: life evaluation, emotional health, healthy behavior and work environment. In particular, the state scores poorly when it comes to health, with some of the highest cancer, diabetes and smoking rates in the country. Life expectancy is also relatively low, at 77.5 years.
However, while median household income is fairly low, and the poverty rate is somewhat high, Ohio isn't among the country's worst in either of those categories.
Well-being index score: 64.2 Life expectancy: 78.3 years (23rd lowest) Obesity: 28.0% (20th highest) Median household income: $55,847 (10th highest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 87.7% (24th lowest)
Delaware's overall life satisfaction rank fell from 44th in 2010 to 47th in 2011. The biggest reason? A major decline in self-reported health. Delaware's physical health ranking fell from 27th in the country to 41st. The state is higher than median for diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and has the nations 11th highest cancer rate.
Delaware also scored worst in the nation when it comes to work environment, a category that measures elements such as job satisfaction, the ability to use one's strengths at work, and the way supervisors treat their employees. Delaware also has the third-highest violent crime rate in the country.
Well-being index score: 63.4 Life expectancy: 74.8 years (the lowest) Obesity: 34.0% (the highest) Median household income: $36,851 (the lowest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 81.0% (3rd lowest)
Mississippi is the poorest state in the nation by more than one metric: lowest median household income, highest poverty rate. It's educational attainment level is among the worst.
Health is also a major issue in the state. Mississippi has the lowest life expectancy in the country -- almost four years less than the national average. It has the highest obesity rate, and ranks in the top 5 for rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and tobacco use.
Well-being index score: 63.3 Life expectancy: 76.2 years (7th lowest) Obesity: 31.3% (5th highest) Median household income: $40,062 (4th lowest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 81.9% (5th lowest)
For the second year in a row, Kentucky's well-being score is the second lowest. Residents consider themselves among the worst-off in the country in life evaluation, healthy behavior and both physical and emotional health. The state is relatively poor, with the fourth-lowest median household income and the fourth-highest rate of poverty. Residents have a low level of education compared to many other states.
The state also has a low life expectancy and among the highest rates of smoking, obesity and heart disease, as well as the highest rate of cancer in the country.
Well-being index score: 62.3 Life expectancy: 75.2 years (2nd lowest) Obesity: 32.5% (2nd highest) Median household income: $38,218 (2nd lowest) Adults with at least a high school diploma: 83.2% (8th lowest)
West Virginia residents are least happy people overall in the country, and it appears they have many reasons to feel so blue. The state is particularly poor. It has the second-lowest median household income, and the sixth-highest rate of poverty. Residents also face a number of health issues. More than 10% of West Virginians have had heart attacks or are suffering from coronary artery disease -- the highest rates in the country. The state has the third-highest rates of cancer and diabetes. It also has the highest rate of smokers, with 26.8% of adults indulging in the habit. It has the second-highest rate of obesity. These problems are all reflected in its life expectancy, which is the second-lowest in the country.