Since 2008, Gallup-Healthways has prepared a “Well-Being Index” every year to gauge which states are the happiest and healthiest in America. Data shows that for the past several years, the most miserable states tend to stay in the bottom 10 rankings, and the happiest states tend to stay in the top 10.
The well-being of each state includes five important factors like social health, having supportive relationships in life, financial well-being, the ability to manage economics and money, feeling safe in the community you live in and physical health, which include smoking and obesity rates.
For the past seven years, West Virginia has ranked the worst in well-being with the same states repeatedly ranking in the lowest 10 in the well-being poll. These states are Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas.
So how do these miserable states vote? Since the “Well-Being Index” began in 2008, three major elections have also taken place, and data shows that those states in the bottom 10 tend to vote red. When President Obama first ran in 2008, the exception was that Indiana and Ohio went blue; a rare occurrence for Indiana but the election data from The New York Times shows that Obama just barely won Indiana with 49.9 percent of the votes versus 49 percent of the votes going to John McCain. The remaining states, excluding the swing state of Ohio, safely voted for John McCain with the republican earning a much higher percentage of the votes.
In 2012, when Obama ran for re-election against Mitt Romney, every state that is in the bottom 10 of the “Well-Being Index” voted red, with the exception of the state of Ohio which went blue for Obama.
Finally, in 2016 in the election for Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton, all of those same states voted red, including Ohio. Even before the Gallup Poll started recording data in 2008, these same states voted red in 2000 in the election of George W. Bush versus Al Gore and again in 2004 when Bush was up for re-election against John Kerry, with Ohio voting red for Bush in each election.
The same states that fall into the most miserable are also in the top 10 most obese states according to the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health. In 2015, the states that struggle with the highest obesity rates and also appear in the lowest 10 in the “Well-Being Index” are Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arkansas. (Indiana is the 15th fattest state, fairing better than the other miserable states, however all of these states are ranked in the bottom 15 states out of the list of 51 that includes Washington D.C.)
These same states even struggle with the highest cigarette smoking rates shown in a Gallup poll. Kentucky has the highest smoking rates in the country, with West Virginia falling into the 2nd worst, right behind Mississippi, Oklahoma, Ohio, Missouri and Indiana, in that exact order.
The states that tend to stay in the top 10 of the Healthways “Well-Being Index” are Hawaii, Alaska, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota. In all elections since 2000, Hawaii has voted blue, with the remaining states showing a mixture of red and blue. Colorado voted red for Bush in the early 2000s, but has voted blue since Obama first ran in 2008. Alaska, Wyoming and Montana tend to vote red.
These states also have the lowest obesity rates states, with Colorado being the least obese as of September 2016, with Hawaii as third lowest, and Montana the fourth lowest.