The 17 Unhappiest States in America

The US has hit an all-time low position in the World Happiness Index, tumbling to 23rd in 2024. However, it’s important to remember that location is an important factor; many US states are very happy, unlike the following 17 US states that appear to be the most unhappy. 

South Dakota

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Despite having low unemployment rates, the South Dakota government reveals that the state has the seventh-highest suicide rate in the US. Rates are at an estimated 22.6 per 100,000 residents, and there were 202 suicide deaths in 2021 alone—representing a sad 50% increase from a decade prior. 


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Digging into a 2017 survey by Sacred Heart University, NBC concluded that one in three residents felt unhappy with the state’s quality of life. Sadly, things have only gotten worse since then. The unbearably high cost of living, housing, and taxes have pushed many people to leave Connecticut over the years. 


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Wyoming has one of the lowest population densities among states in the US, so it’s no surprise that residents sometimes feel lonely and isolated. The longer commute times needed to get some basic supplies, along with harsh weather conditions, worsen the emotional well-being of Wyoming residents even further. 


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Ohio faces major problems around drug abuse, and this has contributed to its high levels of poverty and property crime rates. Mental healthcare, infrastructure, and community engagement here are also lagging behind the levels they’re at in many other US states, which unfortunately makes it one of America’s unhappiest states.


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The cost of living in Oregon is 24% higher than the national average, and this has forced many of its lower-income inhabitants into constant states of financial anxiety. There’s also a homelessness pandemic sweeping through Oregon streets, and the prevalence of drug abuse has heightened societal concerns.  


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Texas has one of the highest crime rates in the US, with over 130,000 offenders sitting in its hundreds of prisons today. Sadly, alongside this, residents also have to worry about inadequacies when it comes to food, foster home management, and mental healthcare. 


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Homelessness and substance abuse are vices that plague Indiana’s neighborhoods, and this has caused many residents to feel unsafe. This remains so even when the cost of living here is 10% lower than the national average. Indiana has a struggling job market, too, making it even harder for many residents to live here. 


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In Oklahoma, residents struggle with the unfavorable work environment they inhabit. Mental and physical well-being suffer daily due to low chances for income growth. Unpredictable weather, drug abuse, and the large absence of health insurance also contribute to unsatisfactory living conditions. 

New Mexico

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US News claims that New Mexico is the US state with the third-worst poverty rate (18%), and this has pushed its residents into more emotionally damaging situations. The state holds a high spot in suicide and divorce rate rankings, and there’s a general indifference towards volunteering amongst its population. It’s truly sad to see.


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Mississippi has the second-highest poverty rate per capita in the US, and this has had terrible side effects. The state is now known to have very high illiteracy rates, poor safety ratings, high divorce rates, and terrible resident participation in sports. Residents also have to deal with food and water insecurities. 


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A unique entry on this list is that Alabama’s residents aren’t getting enough adequate sleep. This has contributed to the state’s low safety rankings, low resident desire to volunteer, and low participation in sports activities. Sadly, it has become a frequent annual feature on lists of the worst states to live in.


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Kentucky residents face problems similar to those in Alabama. Residents don’t get adequate sleep due to the stresses of life, and sadly, this has forced many to have a low interest in health. The state is also tragically ranked as one of the worst states when it comes to employment and adult depression. 


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Arkansas is the state with the sixth-highest poverty rate, with a job market limited in the areas of opportunities and wages. Hence, it has an adult depression rate that is sadly on the high side, one of the lowest sports participation rates, and equally low safety ratings among US citizens. 


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Tennessee’s community engagement is at low levels, and when you couple this with low rates of environmental well-being, it’s understandable why CNBC ranks it highly on its list of most stressed states. Tennessee also scores high in health-related stress and has the third-highest prevalence of depression, with almost a quarter of its residents affected.


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Louisianna holds the top spot in poverty prevalence, as 19.6% of its residents live below the poverty line. It also has terrible rates of divorce, sports participation, safety, and work hours. Sadly, the Louisianna residents have little hope that the government can solve their issues around income inequity and food security. 


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The contrast of having one of the longest average working hours and the lowest projections for income growth leaves Alaskan residents mentally battered. Since it’s also a long way from other states, residents sometimes feel isolated, and this has resulted in Alaska having one of the highest suicide rates, too. 

West Virginia

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Finally, with US News revealing that West Virginia has a depression rate of 29%—the highest in the US—it’s undoubtedly the unhappiest state to live in. There are worrying levels of sleep deprivation due to unhealthy work environments, and residents have the fourth-highest poverty rate among all US citizens.

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