This State Is the Nation's Happiest, for the 6th Time in Annual Poll

A person walks barefoot on a beach.
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Hawaii once again tops the list of happiest states in the country, according to a new poll.

In 2016, residents of the Aloha State scored highest on Gallup-Healthways' annual survey of well-being, with a score of 65.2 out of 100. This marks the sixth time that Hawaii has come out on top in the poll since Gallup-Healthways began conducting it in 2008 — a feat that no other state has accomplished.

Runners-up in the poll include Alaska (which also came in second in 2015), followed by South Dakota, Maine and Colorado.

Finishing last in the poll, the states with the lowest well-being scores, were Kentucky and West Virginia, which have held the bottom two spots for eight years in a row, according to Gallup-Healthways. [See the List of the Happiest U.S. States]

The rankings are based on interviews with more than 177,000 U.S. adults in all 50 states, conducted from January to December 2016. The researchers calculated a well-being score for each state, based on participants' answers to questions about different aspects of well-being, including their sense of purpose, social relationships, financial lives, community involvement and physical health.

In general, states in the northern Plains and Mountain West tended to have higher well-being scores than states in the South and Midwest. [7 Things That Will Make You Happy]

And despite the popular claim that 2016 was the "worst year ever," Americans' overall well-being ticked slightly upward last year. The country's average well-being score was 62.1 in 2016, up from 61.7 in 2015 and 61.6 in 2015, Gallup-Healthways said.

Some of the factors behind this increase include a rise in the percentage of Americans with health insurance in 2016, and a drop in the percentage of smokers, Gallup-Healthways said.

However, some markers of well-being declined in 2016. For example, the percentage of Americans with obesity or diabetes increased, and the percentage diagnosed with depression reached its highest level since Gallup began conducting the poll.

Want to move up on the happy list? States can implement initiatives to improve specific aspects of their residents' well-being, Gallup-Healthways said. For example, leaders in each state can work with grocery stores and restaurants to make it easier for customers to select healthy food options, which is a goal of the Gallup-Healthways' Blue Zones Project being carried out in California, Oregon, Iowa, Texas, Florida and Hawaii, Gallup-Healthways said.

Leaders can also invest in building infrastructure that will make it easier for residents to be active, such as projects that make areas more walkable, or create more bicycle lanes, Gallup-Healthways said.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.