Income not whole story of happiness

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Money can't buy happiness goes the old saying, and it's as true as ever.

Or can it?

Yes it can, up to a point, if you want to believe a recent study.

Let's just hope Washington isn't paying attention. Otherwise, they'd be tempted to impose a 100 percent tax rate above $75,000, the point above which researchers contend we gain no more happiness with each additional dollar.

Actually, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America finds that "life satisfaction" increases only up to $75,000 income, but "emotional well-being," the other component of "happiness," doesn't necessarily improve.

Below $75,000 income, both life satisfaction and emotional well-being suffer.

But that income can't be the whole story, according to the WalletHub.com site for consumers and small businesses.

While Nebraska's median household income falls far below the $75,000 benchmark -- about $51,000 for Nebraska, $43,000 for McCook -- we're among the happiest states in America.

In fact, based on 26 key factors examined by WalletHub across the 50 states, Nebraska is the fifth happiest, behind Utah, Minnesota, North Dakota and Colorado.

How is that figured?

Well, we are number six (lowest) in divorce rate, ninth in income growth rate, fifth in commute time, eighth in income level, 15th in life expectancy, 18th in depression rate, 13th in the physical health index, and 23rd on the "hedonometer score."

The latter uses trends of positive comments on social media to measure the mood of users in the regions being studied.

Not surprisingly, Hawaii is best on the hedonometer scale, Mississippi and Louisiana worst.

Hawaii also has the lowest prevalence of depression, Kentucky the highest; South Dakotans get the most sleep, Kentuckians the least; the District of Columbia is home to the lowest number of people who are overweight or obese, Louisiana the highest; Oregon has the most people who participate in sports, Arkansas the fewest; the District of Columbia has the lowest suicide rate per capita, Wyoming the highest; Utah has the lowest median weekly hours worked, Alaska the highest; North Dakota has the lowest long-term unemployment and Nevada the highest; Utah has the highest volunteerism rate and Louisiana the lowest; Utah has the lowest divorce rate and the District of Columbia the highest; and Massachusetts in the safest state to live in, and Nevada the most dangerous.

Nebraska ranks 13th in categories concerning emotional and physical well being, fourth in work and sixth in community, environment and recreational activities.

Nebraska and Iowa tie at fifth for the highest rate of volunteerism, proving once again that doing things for others is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself.

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