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Study says: 2nd happiest state according to tweets

Whether ranking food, beer or bike friendliness, Portland has been appearing regularly atop, or near the top, of numerous lists. The methodology of these lists ranges from a harried editor making vague guesses to researchers developing esoteric metrics. Here then is a recent study (albeit state-wide) of our happiness, as flagged by the Huffington Post.

Just how happy are we?

Pretty damn happy – at least compared to other states, according to a study of geotagged tweets published by a team of Vermont researchers on PLoS ONE, “an open access peer-reviewed scientific journal.”
In the study, Maine finished second, next to Hawaii. Rounding out the top five were Nevada, Utah and Vermont. For the schadenfreude crowd: the saddest five states, in order, were Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia.
(By the way, compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. is in the middle of the pack.)
For the record, the study’s snappy title is “The Geography of Happiness: Connecting Twitter Sentiment and Expression, Demographics, and Objective Characteristics of Place.”

About the study

To simplify (greatly), researchers reviewed geotagged tweets, measuring the frequency of words ranked on a positive or negative scale. Presumably unicorns and rainbows rate high, food poisoning low. To delve into the methodolgy (algorithms and such) view the full study.
(As a caveat, while, there are plenty of data and thought behind the study, the publisher, PLoS, does have its critics: PLoS’s innovative business model of charging submitters rather than subscribers has drawn criticism.)
Coastal areas tend to be happy, and obesity and poverty tend to correlate to sad belts. (Strangely enough, Maine is in the middle of the pack for poverty, according to a 2009/2010 United States Census Bureau report. Our sunny dispositions must trump reduced means.)
Of course the data sets are skewed by demographics of the tweeters, who trend younger, surely a factor in a graying state. And, unfortunately, there really isn’t a clear reason for our happiness. Perhaps it’s just best to continue to enjoy where we live and to hold out hope for one day moving past Hawaii.

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