Time to Relax! The Least Stressed US State Is ...

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Hawaii boasts the happiest residents in the nation, and now it's extending its reign as the least stressed state, too, according to new results from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released today (April 23).

West Virginia, already named the unhappiest and the fattest state of 2012, is now stuck with another ignominious title under its belt: its residents are the most likely in the country to feel stressed out on any given day.

When asked whether they experienced stress "a lot of the day yesterday," just 32.1 percent of Hawaiians said "yes," while 47.1 percent of West Virginians said the same, according to the poll. [See the List of 2012's Least Stressed States]

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2012, with a random sample of more than 350,000 American adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Here are the five most frazzled states and the percentage of residents who said they had experienced stress "a lot of the day" the day before:

  • West Virginia: 47.1 percent
  • Rhode Island: 46.3
  • Kentucky: 44.8
  • Utah: 44.6
  • Massachusetts:43.4

Here are the five least stressed states:

  • Hawaii: 32.1 percent
  • Louisiana: 37.6
  • Mississippi: 37.9
  • Iowa: 38.1
  • Wyoming: 38.6

Overall, about 40 percent of American adults will say they experienced a lot of stress the day before, according to the poll. Previous studies have shown that chronic stress comes with a host of negative impacts, making a person more susceptible to health conditions ranging from the common cold to cancer. Stress has also been linked to heart disease, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and weight gain. But it's quite tricky to tease out which factors underlie stress.

The most stressed states tend to report less daily enjoyment, but that doesn't always explain why some states are less stressed than others. Utah, for example, consistently ranks among the most stressed states (it took fourth place for 2012), but it was No. 3 in terms of enjoyment. (Across the country, 84.9 percent of American adults said they felt enjoyment "yesterday" in 2012.) 

It seems money can't always explain carefree attitudes either. Mississippians, for example, are among the least likely to report feeling stress, though the state has one of the highest poverty rates and lowest income rates in the country. There were some geographic patterns, with higher stress levels at or above 42 percent typically clustered in the Northeast and Midwest, though this also included the western states of Utah, Oregon and Washington, according to Gallup.

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Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and Space.com since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.