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Report: Happiness Isn't Everything in Indiana

GRAPHIC: How happy are you, and how much does that matter to you? New research ranks three Indiana cities among the "least happy" in the country. Graphic courtesy Harvard University and the University of British Columbia.
GRAPHIC: How happy are you, and how much does that matter to you? New research ranks three Indiana cities among the "least happy" in the country. Graphic courtesy Harvard University and the University of British Columbia.
August 4, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS – The old saying, "Happiness isn't everything," might literally ring true for folks in some parts of Indiana.

Indianapolis, Gary and South Bend make the list of unhappiest cities in the country, according to a working paper from researchers using data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

At the University of British Columbia, Assistant Professor of Economics Joshua Gottlieb says the research indicates wealthier, urban cities and those with declining populations appear to be less happy than other regions of the country.

"Unfortunately, there's been a lot of population decline in much of the Rust Belt," explains Gottlieb. "So, places like Gary and a number of other areas in Indiana turned out toward the bottom of the list, associated with this lower reported life satisfaction, or happiness."

However, says Gottlieb, many people still choose to live in these areas, proving they still have something to offer.

He says the findings appear to show that people seem to "trade off" happiness for other qualities they might value more, such as living close to family, ability to make a higher income or an area's lower cost of living.

Gottlieb says the fact that people seem willing to make active choices to trade happiness for other factors suggests that policymakers and researchers shouldn't act as through happiness is an overriding objective. He's convinced for many people, it just isn't a top priority – and that's OK.

"Having a child may reduce your happiness; or moving to a more competitive city may reduce your happiness," he notes. "People are capable of making these tradeoffs, and we shouldn't interfere with that. We should let them decide what's important to them."

In the research, New York ranked as the least happy city with a population over 1 million. The Richmond-Petersburg metro area of Virginia was rated as the happiest, along with many regions in the South.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN