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The Most and Least Happy Cities in America Revealed: Gallup Poll

Update Date: Mar 26, 2013 01:41 PM EDT
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When you think of the happiest cities of America, where do you think of? The cove of San Diego? The coffee shops of Seattle? Or how about the movie theaters in Austin? All of those places are surely nice, but the happiest city in the United States is none other than...Lincoln, Nebraska, the capital and second most populous city in Nebraska.

Lincoln, Nebraska may not seem like the obvious frontrunner, even though residents of the city may well agree with Gallup's findings. Because Gallup's pollsters examined well-being by metropolitan area and not just by city, some of the metro areas can cross city and state lines. The other cities rounding out the top 10 may also not be the first ones that might come to your mind either: Boulder, Colorado; Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont; Provo-Orem, Utah; Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado; Barnstable Town, Massachusetts; Honolulu, Hawaii; the Washington, D.C. metro area, which includes sections of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia; and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, California rounded out the lists.

The list was not altogether surprising to the pollsters, mainly because the Western and Midwestern states tend to report a higher rate of well-being than the Southern states. That is why Hawaii was the happiest state for the fourth time in a row, while West Virginia came in last.

Similarly, nearly all of the cities with the lowest well-being ratings were in the South: Charlestown, West Virginia; Huntington-Ashland, the metro area of which crosses Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia; Mobile, Alabama; Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas; Hickory-Lenoir-Morgantown, North Carolina; Fort Smith, an Arkansas-Oklahoma metro area; Bakersfield, California; Evansville, a metro area that spans Indiana and Kentucky; Rockford, Illinois; Spartanburg, South Carolina and Utica-Rome, New York.

Residents of Ann Arbor, Michigan had the highest hopes for their present lives and their future. Meanwhile, Honolulu had the best emotional health, while Charlottesville, Virginia toppled Fort Collins, Colorado to triumph in the best physical health category. Residents of Lincoln, Nebraska reported that their work environments were the best, as inhabitants of Salinas, California had the healthiest behaviors. While Holland-Grand Haven, Michigan dwellers had the best access to basic amenities, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Texas reported the worst. For each of the past five years that Gallup pollsters have administered this questionnaire, a Texas city has received the dubious distinction of worst access to basic services. In this year's metropolitan area, 50 percent of residents have no health insurance.

Residents of the cities with the greatest well-being are more likely to have good physical health. They are also less likely to report being depressed. They are more likely to have enough money for basic necessities like food, and report that their work environments are pleasant. But, as Gallup points out, it is not just the behaviors of the inhabitants of the cities that set them apart. It is their leaders as well. They are more likely to live by a store where they can buy fresh produce, or have places to exercise, or have healthcare.

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