Miserable statesYou might think that with the economy on its slow climb back to health, Americans would have gotten a little bit happier in 2011. In fact, they got a bit more miserable -- or so says the most recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The index measures six areas of well-being on a range of 0 to 100, including life evaluation, physical health and work environment. The national score dropped slightly from 66.8 in 2010 to 66.2 in 2011 -- the lowest since the Index was launched in 2008.

Of the 10 states with the highest levels of well-being, nine are in the West and Midwest. Of the 10 with the lowest scores, five are in the South.
24/7 Wall St. wanted to identify the objective conditions that most impact well-being -- and common symptoms weren't hard to find.

In general, the states where people report the lowest levels of well-being suffer from similar woes: low median household incomes, high poverty, relatively low levels of education. Austerity measures taken by state governments to combat budget shortfalls have hindered the happiness recovery as well, Gallup says.

Perhaps the most common shared factor among the states that report the lowest well-being is poor health. Nine of the states on this list are among the 15 with the lowest life expectancies. Obesity is exceptionally high in seven. Seven also fall within the 10 states that have the highest rates of smoking. Rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes are also all particularly high.

- Charles B. Stockdale, Michael B. Sauter, Ashley C. Allen

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