By Alyssa Pereira

Gallup, in collaboration with a company called Healthways, teamed up to answer a simple question: of all 50 states, which are the happiest in the Union?

As it turns out, the “happiest” states as well as the “saddest” are actually kind of a surprise.

The study surveyed 176,702 adult nationwide, taking into account five areas of life satisfaction:

1. Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
2. Having supportive relationships and love in your life
3. Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
4. Liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
5. Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily 

Based on their findings, the happiest state is—who would have guessed—Alaska. But, curiously enough, the state’s natural milieu isn’t the cause for its happy residents; West Virginia, the state ranking last, had an eerily similar ecosystem and tundra. The cause for the difference? As Slate points out, it’s likely West Virginia’s reliance on coal to boost the local economy—a notoriously labor-intensive (and disability-causing) career.

California, which ranked 12th overall, but 3rd in the good health category. Guess those stunning hikes are great for the body as well as the soul!

To read the full results, head here.


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