We New Yorkers can be nasty sometimes. And we can be rude. And, yes, we can be downright belligerent. But are we really the unhappiest state in the country?
Two economics professors, who obviously had nothing better to do, thought so. Andrew Oswald, from the University of Warwick in Britain, and Stephen Wu, from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, conducted a study that was published in Science Magazine. The two formed a guide to our nation’s happiness by compiling all sorts of data, and ranking by state. Washington DC is included as a state to bring the list to 51.
New York was dead last. Number 51 of 51 on the happiness rankings. And our immediate neighbors, Connecticut and New Jersey, ranked at the bottom with us, Connecticut at 50, and New Jersey at 49. That’s gotta make the Tri-State area the most miserable metropolis in the world.
Wu and Oswald based their study mainly on two surveys. One was a survey done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of 1.3 million Americans over four years that questioned the participants about their health and how satisfied they were with their lives. The other study was one taken from U.C.L.A., and compared crime, climate, taxes, commutes, cost of living and other factors, and compared them on a state-to-state basis.
The two studies matched findings so accurately, as to almost seem fixed. The happiest states were those where it was warm and the sun shone a lot, where traffic was light and pollution was down. Those states, of course, are located in the Sun Belt. States like Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, and Arizona were in the top 5, with Louisiana at the very top. Maine was a wild card at number 6.
So, as a native New Yorker, hearing these negative survey findings makes me unhappy. Good thing the study by Wu and Oswald could not factor in the impending added unhappiness of the test results, or else New York would have been rated 52 of 51.
New Yorkers always appear to be rude, seem to yell at the slightest of provocations, and are always in a hurry. However, these should not beg the assumption that we New Yorkers are unhappy. New York is a mountain of social and financial obstacles that await the strong-hearted willing to challenge it. Achievement is the ultimate goal, and making it to the top in New York is basically making it to the top, period.
Comments from New York Times Readers:
The obvious answer is that people in the happy states don’t know any better. They are the most deluded by national media, don’t have cable, have no radio but preachers and country music stations, buy into the Orphan Annie philosophy of false optimism. If they knew what was going on, the fact that they think they are happy should make them miserable. In places like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut (Lieberman alone must depress them terribly) and California, they (we) are not clueless as to the reality of life in these United States.
-Barry Blitstein, NYC
I was born in Manhattan and love New York. And by the way , Saranac Lake was voted the best place to live in the entire USA. Plattsburgh is the best college town in the country. We have bigger parks than Alaska, better beaches than Hawaii. It is the only state with pizza worth slicing and bagels worth shmearing.
The world is full of complainers.
But we have the best complainers.
And the final word from Clyde Haberman of the New York Times, because I cannot say it better:
Not to be unkind, but some states that made the Top 10 are among the poorest in the country. Are people there truly happy, or are they wearing “What, me worry?” smiles.
More important, might contentment be overrated? Seriously, isn’t restlessness, even outright discontent, often a catalyst for creativity?
We’re from the Harry Lime school. If you’ve seen the film classic “The Third Man,” you will remember that character’s admonition: “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance.
“In Switzerland they had brotherly love. They had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”