Where does your state rank?
Ever wonder which state is the happiest? What about the sleepiest? Is your state as chill as Hawaii or as high-strung as New York? These may seem like trivial questions, but they get to the heart of an important reality: Americans struggle with all kinds of wellness issues, and their incidence can depend on where you live.
At Persona, we believe it’s important to map out this wellness landscape: It’s only when we understand how we’re doing that we can find a way to do better. That’s why we created our annual Health and Happiness Index—a unique, state-by-state snapshot of our nation’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
What is the Health & Happiness Index?
Every day, thousands of Americans take Persona’s online health and nutrition assessment, a 5-minute questionnaire that looks at diet, lifestyle, health goals and other factors to help respondents design a personal nutrition plan.
Using anonymized data from the questionnaire, we can build a picture of our nation’s health and lifestyle status: Which states are doing better in a given domain, and which could use a helping hand. This year’s index analyzed responses collected from January through May in eight key areas: happiness, energy, stress, sleep, fitness, diet, digestion and joint health.
Some unexpected findings
The results are as interesting as they are surprising: Who would have thought residents of Washington D.C. are the happiest? Or that Connecticut is the most stressed-out state? Or that Mississippians are the sleepiest—by a long shot? Take a look at this year’s results to see where your state ranks. The answers might surprise you!
See this year’s results
- Happiest states
- Sleepiest states
- Highest energy states
- Most stressed-out states
- Fittest states
- Best eaters in the Union
- Worst digestion in the Union
- Achiest joints
- About Persona Nutrition
- Appendix: Data for all 50 states
Which state has the happiest Americans? Well…it’s not a state, but our country’s capital, Washington, D.C. ranks first with 20.5% of people saying they’re in a good mood most of the time. The second happiest state is Delaware with 15.5% (peach pie makes us happy too!), and Nevada is in third with 13.2%.
Least happy states
How is it that the birthplace of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream could feel so down in the mouth? With just 2.3% of respondents saying they have no complaints about their mood, Vermont is officially America’s least happy state (we’re thinking of you guys!). Meanwhile, if you have friends in Nebraska and Oregon, you might want to send them some love too—they’re doing just slightly better than the Green Mountain State.
Foods to help your mood
When you’re feeling down, it’s tempting to turn to foods like ice cream or cookies for comfort. But be careful: High-sugar foods may lift your mood at first, it won’t take long for you to crash. In fact, a diet packed with junk foods can make you feel worse over time. Real comfort comes from a healthier place–complex carbs, healthy fats, fruits and veggies help elevate mood and an overall sense of well-being. Fruit with yogurt, cheese and apple slices, or a handful of trail mix could be great options.
Sleep is a top concern for every state—about 78.1% of respondents across the country say they feel tired all the time—but if you live in Mississippi, West Virginia or Alaska, you might be feeling especially sluggish. More than 85% of Mississippians say they feel constantly out of gas—the highest number in the nation. If you count yourself in that category—whether from stress, interrupted sleep or another reason—know that you’re not alone. Even America’s least drowsy states—Rhode Island (66.7%) and Wyoming (73.0%)—more than half of respondents have a hard time getting shuteye.
Foods for a better snooze
There’s no denying that sleep is important—it affects almost every system in your body. But what you eat can make all the difference. Kiwi, for instance, has a high concentration of serotonin, a compound that helps regulate your sleep cycle, while nuts have essential minerals like magnesium and zinc to help your muscles relax. Rolling these foods into your diet, alongside lifestyle changes—like limiting caffeine, setting a regular bedtime and keeping screens out of the bedroom—can help bring those Z’s back in reach.
Highest energy states
Believe it or not, the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Americans apparently live in Washington D.C., where about 17% of respondents say they have no complaints about their energy levels. That may not seem like big proportion, but when you compare it to the national average of 7%, it’s actually a decent score. (Yes, Americans have low energy, unfortunately!) Second and third place in this category go to our smallest and largest states—Rhode Island (10.08%) and Alaska (10.07%)—who report slightly better energy levels than the rest of the country.
Least energetic states
So, which Americans struggle the most with energy? Apparently the fresh air and bracing walks aren’t doing a lot for the people of Vermont and Idaho. Both states are known for their beautiful mountain hikes, but only 3.45% of respondents in Vermont and 3.57% of respondents in Idaho say energy isn’t an issue.
Foods to boost your batteries
Feeling drained on a daily basis? Instead of reaching for that second (…or third) cup of coffee, try revving up your engine with some nutrient-dense foods like whole grains, fruits, veggies and nuts. Whole grains give your body its preferred source of fuel—carbohydrates—mixed with fiber to help balance blood sugar and a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Fruits and veggies are packed with antioxidants and vital nutrients for energy, and nuts like almonds or walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that promote brain health.
Most stressed-out states
2022 was a rough start for Connecticut, with 20.7% of respondents saying they feel strung out all the time, well above the national average of 14.3%. Connecticut, we’re wishing you better days in the second half of the year! We’re also sending good vibes to North Dakota and New Jersey, where about 19% of respondents are struggling with constant stress.
When it comes to managing tension, all of us could learn a thing or two from South Dakota. Their energy may be low, but they’ve got laid-back on lock: Only 4.3% of South Dakotans say they feel stressed all the time.
Managing stress with good nutrition
Life is stressful! When times are tough, your body makes that infamous stress hormone cortisol. Left unmanaged, it can lead to long-term inflammation and an array of health issues that impact your sleep, your mood, even your immune health. A healthy diet—along with regular exercise and rest—can help you keep these effects in check. This includes certain foods that promote a healthy inflammatory response: Berries, salmon and avocado (yes, please!) can help keep cortisol levels under control.
Maybe they’re the happiest because they’re the most active, or maybe they’re the most active because they’re the happiest, but in Washington D.C., more than 30% of respondents say they exercise at least 3 times a week. The runners up in this category might also surprise you: New Hampshire (28.4%) and Nebraska (27.6%) round out the top three.
Least active states
Unfortunately, Vermont lacks the energy to get moving, they’re America’s least active state with only 8.0% of people exercising regularly.
Food to feed your fitness
Whether you’re an athlete, a gym enthusiast or a sometime-power walker, exercise and diet go hand in hand to support your health. Depending on what type of movement you do, your nutrition needs will vary, but the golden rule is: Be well-fueled going into—and out of—a workout. Carbohydrates like bananas, sweet potatoes or oatmeal are good sources of energy to help with performance. While a peanut butter sandwich, a fruit smoothie or chicken with veggies can help with exercise recovery after the fact.
Best eaters in the Union
Fruits and veggies are a vital part of a balanced diet; they provide important vitamins, minerals and fiber to keep us healthy. Experts recommend that Americans eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but according to our survey only about 23.4% of us are meeting this goal (yikes!). But while none of us are acing our eating habits, some states are doing better than others. Vermont and Maine are America’s best eaters, with 34.48% and 33.14% of people getting 20+ servings of fruits and veggies per week.
Worst eaters in the Union
Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Louisiana could all use a hand with meal prepping: Less than 20% of respondents in these states are getting all their servings of fruits and vegetables!
Pointers for plant-phobes
Giving your body the nutrients it needs is vital to your health; deficiencies can increase your risk of brain fog, poor gut health, fatigue and other issues. So even if fruits and vegetables aren’t your favorite, it’s important to find ways to include them. You can roast veggies with your favorite herbs, hide the greens in soup or blend them into a smoothie with your favorite yogurt—you won’t even be able to taste it! If you’re still having trouble getting all 5 servings in, adding a multivitamin can also help you fill that nutrient gap. But remember: Your multi isn’t a shortcut to health! It should complement a healthy diet.
Worst digestion in the Union
North Dakota leads the nation in the production of wheat and honey—but also in gut woes, with 62.2% of respondents from the state reporting regular indigestion. It’s closely followed by Arkansas (62.1%) and Alabama (61.6%). They’re in good company, though, as more than half of Americans (53.2%) say gut discomfort is an ongoing issue.
Best digestion in the Union
Washington, D.C. and Rhode Island’s guts are doing a little better than the rest of America, with 42.2% of D.C. and 43.4% of Rhode Island having digestion troubles.
Did you know your gut is sometimes called your second brain? A healthy gut isn’t just about staying regular or preventing bloating; it plays an incredibly important role in immunity, skin health, mood and a lot more! That’s why probiotics—the healthy bacteria in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi or kombucha—don’t just maintain a healthy gut environment, but also your overall health!
Achiest joints in the Union
If you live in Montana, you may well be doing yoga into your golden years, as your state has the lowest proportion of people who report having achy joints (13.0%). Compare this to the much achier Oklahoma (23.8%) and Wyoming (23.2%). Here’s to you, Montana. Stay bendy!
Foods for flexibility
Achy joints may come naturally with age—and can be related to genetics—but what you put on your plate can also play a role. Some foods worsen inflammation, while others help reduce it, such as fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains and legumes. If you’re eating a well-rounded diet and your knees still feel sore standing, supplements like omega-3s, collagen and MSM may help by promoting a healthy inflammatory response and supporting joint health.
About Persona Nutrition
Customized daily vitamins, tailored to your needs
At Persona, we believe good nutrition is the foundation of wellness, and that for each of us that foundation looks different. We all have unique diets, a unique lifestyles, unique health goals. So to be truly well, we each need a unique nutrition solution. That’s why we built Persona: to meet this need with a science-based, personalized vitamin plan and one-one-one expert support. We all deserve to live healthy, happy lives. Persona exists to make that a reality.
How Persona works
Every day, thousands of Americans take Persona’s online health and nutrition assessment, a 5-minute questionnaire that looks at diet, lifestyle, health goals and other factors to help each of them build a customized vitamin plan tailored to their unique needs—whether that’s more energy, better sleep, help with digestion or some combination or issues. With a few clicks, you get personalized daily vitamin packs delivered right to your door each month—and free one-on-one coaching from a team of qualified nutritionists. No more bottles. No more guesswork. Just the right nutrients, at the right dose, every day.
Appendix: Results for all states
Data for all 50 states by health concern