Ranked: The Happiest (and Unhappiest) U.S. States

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Ranked: The Happiest (and Unhappiest) U.S. States Getty Images

What is happiness? People have argued over what the concept actually means for centuries. Everyone from the Buddha to Nietzsche to Dolly Parton has weighed in with their own interpretation of the elusive, and sought-after, emotion.

Although happiness is a slippery concept, the government of Bhutan famously releases a Gross National Happiness index, measured by sustainable development, environmental conservation, cultural practice and good governance. This holistic approach to measuring success has been touted by the UN as an alternative to the wealth-based measures used to gauge a country's success.

U.S. citizens looking for a way to improve their own Gross Happiness should look no further than a new study from WalletHub. The personal finance website has released this year's report on the happiest states in America, a Bhutanese-style rundown on which place has the most contented inhabitants.

WalletHub ranked each state on their emotional and physical well-being, work environment, community and environment. These broad categories were broken down further into 31 sub-metrics, which were each given a score out of 100.

Their report highlights some interesting findings. New York, famed for its therapy culture, has the lowest share of adult depression in the country. And although it's known for its gorgeous landscapes and alternative culture, Oregon has the highest levels.

Work hours are also measured—Utah folk work the least, while Alaskans toil the longest. The wholesome Utahns also have the highest rate of volunteers, as well as the lowest rate of divorce.

Southern states tend to score poorly on various metrics. Of the bottom ten states in the overall rankings, nine are in the South. And although Utah comes out top in a number of measures, it's not the overall happiest state. That honor goes to a tiny outlier, which prides itself on its cultural difference to the rest of the nation—and for good reason, it turns out.

If you're on the search for happiness, but don't want to travel quite as far as Bhutan, join us on a journey through America, from the unhappiest states to the happiest.

01 West Virginia-2
50. West Virginia. Total score: 33.42. Rankings (1 is best, 50 worst): Emotional and physical wellbeing rank: 49. Work environment rank: 48. Community and environment rank: 32. Getty Images
02 Arkansas
49. Arkansas. Total score: 36.61. Rankings (1 is best, 50 worst): Emotional and physical wellbeing rank: 50. Work environment rank: 29. Community and environment rank: 23. Getty Images
03 Louisiana
48. Louisiana. Total score: 37.15. Rankings (1 is best, 50 worst): Emotional and physical wellbeing rank: 44. Work environment rank: 50. Community and environment rank: 41. Getty Images
04 Alaska
47. Alaska. Total score: 38.21. Rankings (1 is best, 50 worst): Emotional and physical wellbeing rank: 33. Work environment rank: 49. Community and environment rank: 50. Getty Images
05 Oklahoma
46. Oklahoma. Total score: 38.89. Rankings (1 is best, 50 worst): Emotional and physical wellbeing rank: 47. Work environment rank: 35. Community and environment rank: 33. Getty Images
06 Alabama-2
45. Alabama. Total score: 39.35. Rankings (1 is best, 50 worst): Emotional and physical wellbeing rank: 46. Work environment rank: 39. Community and environment rank: 43. Getty Images
07 Kentucky
44. Kentucky. Total score: 39.42. Rankings (1 is best, 50 worst): Emotional and physical wellbeing rank: 48. Work environment rank: 19. Community and environment rank: 19. Getty Images
08 Mississippi
43. Mississippi. Total score: 41.63. Rankings (1 is best, 50 worst): Emotional and physical wellbeing rank: 42. Work environment rank: 46. Community and environment rank: 26. Getty Images