Spending

The 3 happiest states in America and how much it costs to live there

It costs about $648,000 to buy a home in the happiest state in the U.S. But qualities like positive income growth and few coronavirus cases can make it worth the price.

Twenty/20

The coronavirus pandemic has made 2020 a tough year for Americans. With job losses, shutdowns, and economic fallout from the outbreak, people in the U.S. are more unhappy now than they have been in almost 50 years.

The crisis, in addition to nationwide social and political tension, has taken an emotional toll. But in certain places, residents are finding it somewhat easier to stay positive. Researchers at WalletHub analyzed key environmental factors to find out where.

Their study examined the 50 U.S. states in three categories: emotional and physical well-being; work environment, including aspects like unemployment rate; and community and environment, which incorporates things such as weather and safety. The categories were evaluated using 32 metrics in total, ranging from the emotional depression rate to income growth to the number of positive coronavirus cases, and each metric was rated on a 100-point scale.

The researchers determined every state's weighted average across all metrics to calculate their overall scores, and Grow used figures from Zillow to determine typical home value in each.

Here are the three happiest states in America.

Hawaii

Total score: 69.5
Emotional and physical well-being rank: 2
Work environment rank: 16
Community and environment rank: 3
Median home value: $648,194

Young people enjoying the water in Hawaii.
Twenty/20

Utah

Total score: 69.42
Emotional and physical well-being rank: 14
Work environment rank: 1
Community and environment rank: 1
Median home value: $373,049

Home in the mountains of Utah.
Tweny/20

Minnesota

Total score: 65.8
Emotional and physical well-being rank: 4
Work environment rank: 4
Community and environment rank: 10
Median home value: $270,082

Outside a coffee shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Twenty/20

The median home value in Hawaii is more than twice the $256,663 national median. But high housing prices are only part of what makes living there expensive. The Aloha State has the highest cost index in the country at 192.9, according to the World Population Review.

Minnesota and Utah are much more affordable states, though, touting lower grocery, utilities, and transportation prices. The cost of living index in those states is 101.6 and 98.4, respectively. (The cost of living index in Mississippi, the U.S. state with the lowest cost of living, is 84.5.)

What experts say actually brings happiness

Research indicates that money can indeed buy happiness — but only up to a certain point. A 2010 Princeton study found that happiness as a result of income starts to fall off after making about $75,000 per year. More recent studies from other institutes corroborate that.

So it makes sense to find contentment elsewhere, according to experts like Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., professor emerita of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"Money is not the key to happiness, as is shown in study after study in the psychology of well-being. More important than money is that sense of fulfillment or purpose," she says in the report. And that comes from several factors, like your career and the place you call home.

If you're considering a move as a way to increase your satisfaction, make sure you look at the full picture. Experts suggest renting in a neighborhood before you commit to buying there so you can get a sense of the area, its amenities, lifestyle and whether you can see yourself there long term.

"It is important to look at what it is about where you live that can affect your well-being," Whitbourne says. "It may be the political system, the extent of social supports and availability of health care, or the perceptions of inequity and injustice in that society."

The keys to a happy life, she adds, are a "sense of fulfillment, the ability to enjoy each moment, the feelings of connection to others, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances."

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