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Dentistry Ohio

'Living' Article March 2010


March 2010


Just how ‘happy’ are you, your friends and your family?  According to new research published in the journal Science this past December we Ohioans rank just 44th in happiness when compared to the other states plus the District of Columbia. 

Past rankings depended on the self-declared levels of happiness professed by individuals across the country but that is no longer the case.  It was Professor Andrew Oswald of the UK's University of Warwick and Stephen Wu of Hamilton College here in the US who examined a 2005-2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System random sample of 1.3 million US citizens in which ‘life-satisfaction’ in each U.S. state is measured.

Their work took into account objective indicators for each individual state such as precipitation, temperature, wind speed, sunshine, coastal land, inland water, public land, National Parks, hazardous waste sites, environmental 'greenness', commuting time, violent crime, air quality, student-teacher ratio, local taxes, local spending on education and highways, and cost of living.

In essence the work of Oswald and Wu established a truly external data base that can be used to rank our United States in order of happiest living environments.  Interestingly the new results run parallel with the previous subjective studies based on participant’s self-assessment of happiness. 

"The beauty of our statistical method”, said Dr. Oswald, “is that we are able to look below the surface of American life -- to identify the deep patterns in people's underlying happiness from Alabama to Wyoming. This type of study has been done for a few European countries but it is new to the United States. We are the first to be able to do this calculation -- partly because we are fortunate enough to have a random anonymized sample of 1.3 million Americans."

"The state-by-state pattern seems interesting in itself” observed Oswald. “But it also matters scientifically. We wanted to study whether people's feelings of satisfaction with their own lives are reliable, that is, whether they match up to reality -- of sunshine hours, congestion, air quality, etc -- in their own state. And they do match. When human beings give you an answer on a numerical scale about how satisfied they are with their lives, it is best to pay attention. Their answers are reliable. This suggests that life-satisfaction survey data might be very useful for governments to use in the design of economic and social policies."

So what do you think neighbor?  Maybe it is because winter is largely behind us and we’re headed into a season of rebirth but I don’t feel as if I live in an ‘unhappy’ state!  Quite on the contrary I feel blessed here in my Ohio home even in the midst of our struggling economy.  If you’re curious about where other states were ranked on the happiness scale you can review Oswald and Wu’s results here:

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