Connecticut residents will be pleased, but perhaps not surprised, to hear that their own Nutmeg State has recently been recognized as one of the happiest in the country.
Connecticut was ranked the 10th happiest state in a study released by WalletHub, a personal finance website, last week. The study ranked each state in three categories — emotional and physical well-being, work environment and community environment — and then gave each state an overall score between 33 and 67.
Connecticut, which was sixth in emotional and physical well-being, 34th in work environment and 33rd in community and environment, received an overall score of 57.93, good for tenth best in the nation. States in the top five included Hawaii, Utah, Minnesota, California and New Jersey.
“WalletHub drew upon the findings of ‘happiness’ research to determine which environmental factors are linked to a person’s overall well-being and satisfaction with life,” according to the company’s website. “To determine where Americans exhibit the best combination of these factors, we examined the 50 states across 31 key metrics, ranging from depression rate to sports participation rate to income growth.”
The study’s report also ranked the states in a number of objective, quantifiable categories — share of adult depression, rate of adequate sleep, sports participation rate, suicide rate, number of works hours, unemployment rate, income growth, volunteer rate, divorce rate and safety — and listed the best and worst five states in each category. Connecticut appeared a couple times on the positive side, as tied for the fifth lowest suicide rate and the fifth safest, and never appeared as one of the five worst states in any category.
In order to broaden and deepen the discussion of happiness, the study solicited contributions from a group of happiness experts — college professors at different universities throughout the U.S. — to determine the most accurate and fair measures of happiness. One of the experts, Professor of Psychology at Minnesota State University Daniel Sachau, focuses his research on the relationship between money and happiness. In an interview with the News, Sachau said that his research indicates that more money often does not make people happier.
“The problem is our expectations rise and we start looking at others around us who make more money,” he said. “We think getting the next higher level of money will make us happier but once we get there we become accustomed to it very quickly.”
Sachau cited a study which attempted to measure the happiness of the richest Americans, and a different one about lottery winners in Europe. In both, it was found that these particularly rich people were only slightly happier than average among all people.
According to Sachau, money can help alleviate suffering and misery among lower-income individuals. But past a certain point in which all financial necessities are covered, more money generally doesn’t translate into more happiness.
“Can money buy happiness? Up until about a $70,000 income, or perhaps lower around $45,000, everything you’re making when you’re hurting eliminates misery.” Sachau told the News. “It’s the absence of misery, but happiness is different than that.”
Sachau said that extra money, above the baseline of somewhere between $45,000 and $70,000, can help create happiness if used well. Activities like donating to causes one is passionate about, or gaining opportunities for learning or self-development can be productive uses of money.
Sachau also noted that people who earn significantly more than the baseline often become locked into a lifestyle of spending a lot of money, even if they don’t love their job. He called this a “weekend style” of living, and pointed out the dangers of growing accustomed to a particular high-income and being afraid to take a lower-paying, but more satisfying job.
Dave Ulrich, the director of the Human Resource Executive Program at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, also studies the metrics of happiness. Part of Ulrich’s work and research focuses on how organizations succeed with more engaged and happier employees.
In an interview with the News, Ulrich spoke about his work and how it relates to the WalletHub study. He said that different concepts are used to measure employee satisfaction at work, such as engagement, experience and commitment, but that each shares a “base concept” with happiness. In addition, there are a number of factors, such as vision, opportunity to grow, money and impact that play a part in determining happiness at work.
Ulrich also said that high employee morale can be transferred to the customers, and in turn to investors. He called this a “value chain” which creates “sustainable value” in an organization.
Tying his research into the happiness study, Ulrich told the News that a positive work experience often translates into happiness in the rest of one’s life.
“Inevitably, work experience blends into life experience,” he said. “This may vary by person, but employee sentiment is a reflection of overall life well being.”
Connecticut has the fifth-highest median household income in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Emmett Shell | firstname.lastname@example.org