These Are the 15 Most Unhappy States in the US

Scenic overlook on a rainy day

While the state you live in will not solely determine your happiness, it is far easier to be happy in a tropical paradise (Hawaii) than in a frequently frozen wasteland (Ohio). Researchers weighed various criteria, including unemployment rates, sleep quality, and depression rates, to determine which states are most likely to produce miserable residents.

1. West Virginia

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
Image Credit: Roller Coaster Philosophy – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

When the country roads take West Virginians home to the place they belong, they better hope that a good therapist is in town. The Mountain State has many hollers where unemployment is sky-high, residents' physical and psychological well-being is lagging, and substance abuse is widespread.

While West Virginia is a naturally beautiful state with many proud residents, it lacks quality healthcare, has crumbling infrastructure, and many other problems that sap its citizens' well-being.

2. Louisiana

Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana
Image Credit: Shutterstock/f11photo.

When you think Louisiana, you might picture Mardi Gras, Cajun cuisine, or a packed Tiger Stadium during a Saturday night LSU football game. While there is plenty of fun to be had in the Bayou State, the state's infrastructure is notoriously unreliable (see: Hurricane Katrina), the economy is lackluster, and many of the state's cities are riddled with crime.

3. Tennessee

Andrews Bald Trail Great Smokey Mountains Tennessee
Image Credit: Scott Basford – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Despite its crown jewel, Nashville, being among the fastest-growing cities in the country, many Tennesseans need help. In the big picture, the problem is bleak urban poverty (Memphis) and bleak rural poverty (much of the rest of Tennessee). With this poverty comes a lagging educational system, limited career opportunities, and widespread substance misuse. 

4. Arkansas

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

You're not imagining it—the top of this list does disproportionately feature Southern states. While plenty of Arkansas residents are happy as a peach hunting, raking in high salaries working for Wal-Mart or Tyson Foods, and enjoying the state's natural beauty, many live in rural, impoverished corners of the state.

5. Kentucky

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Kentuckians look down on West Virginians, and vice versa. Each state has its fair share of issues, and Kentucky ranks second highest in adult depression rates (trailing only, you guessed it, West Virginia). 

6. Alabama

Birmingham Alabama 1
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Like so many states on this list, Alabama's problems boil down to one word: poverty. Alabamans who struggle to make ends meet have proven susceptible to predatory lenders, which only furthers the poverty cycles plaguing residents of many Southern states.

7. Mississippi

Image Credit: Alex North / Coastal Mississippi.

Mississippi has a high divorce rate, second-worst safety rating, and lowest physical activity level. We must view these problems in the context of Mississippi's poverty rate, which generally ranks highest in the nation. 

8. Alaska

Image Credit: dvlcom – /

Have you ever braved the Alaskan winter? If you did, you would probably be pretty depressed, too. One of the most naturally stunning states in the summer, Alaska becomes a dark tundra in the wintertime. 

9. New Mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

New Mexico has one of the highest divorce rates of all 50 states. The Land of Enchantment is also the land of entrapment because nearly 20% of residents are stuck in a cycle of generational poverty

10. Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA skyline at twilight.
Image Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.

During the Great Depression, “Okies” wore the dusty faces of crippling property within a nation racked by economic hardship. While the Dust Bowl has subsided, Oklahomans do not fare well within the misery index, which indicates poor growth in gross domestic product.

11. Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park, Michigan City, Indiana
Image Credit: Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Addiction is rampant in Indiana, where nearly one in 12 Hoosiers has a substance use disorder. While you might picture cornfields and the poverty that often accompanies rural living, cities like Gary prove Indiana also has its share of hyper-dangerous, decaying urban centers.

12. Texas

Texas Memorial Stadium
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Wangkun Jia.

It's hard to believe a state with Texas' population growth rate could rank so high in terms of unhappiness, but the data is what it is. Zooming into many Texan cities and towns (especially toward the Southern border), you will see large pockets of impoverished Texans. The rapidly growing population also contributes to overcrowding, worn-out infrastructure, and rising living costs.

13. Oregon

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Image Credit: Tobias Haase -CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The Pacific Northwest has become the poster region for the substance abuse epidemic, with sidewalks in cities like Portland looking like modern versions of Depression-era Hoovervilles. The weather alone can cause depression, while high living costs may add to Oregonians' funk.

14. Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Image Credit: Erik Drost – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

It's tough to blame Ohioans for getting down, what with the frigid winter weather, exportation of the manufacturing sector, and trainloads of toxic chemicals being burned in their backyards. At least they have Ohio State football as a consistent source of pride and joy.

15. Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Image Credit: Larry Lamsa – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

The least populous state, Wyoming, likely has a higher-than-average percentage of lonely residents. It might be tough to get a Tinder date when the closest neighbor is 100 miles away. Brutal winters likely only exacerbate any sense of isolation Wyoming residents feel.

Source: WalletHub.

Author: Sam Mire

Title: Popular Culture and Film Writer

Expertise: Film and Television, Life Advice, Comedic Writing, Movies, DIY Handiwork, Books, Current Events and Popular Culture


Sam Mire is a freelance writer with over seven years' experience writing about entertainment, global events, American law, and sports. With a Journalism degree from the University of South Florida, Sam focuses on popular culture, film and television, and general life advice in his role for Wealth of Geeks.