By using data gathered from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the research team found that New York is the most miserable American city with over 1 million people, despite its denizens being among the highest paid in the country. As the researchers put it, people who live in unhappier cities actually receive higher wages, “presumably as compensation for their misery.”
What about the happiest cities? Well, the Richmond-Petersburg metropolitan area in Virginia ranked as the happiest in the country with over 1 million residents, and many of the most joyful cities appear to be scattered about the south in sunnier climes.
The researchers said in the paper that they couldn’t verify a lot of patterns previous studies have established—that unhappiness is related to income inequality, that weather has a direct improvement on happiness—but they did say that happiness is not necessarily the most important factor for choosing a city to live in.
“Our research indicates that people care about more than happiness alone, so other factors may encourage them to stay in a city despite their unhappiness,” says Gottlieb. “This means that researchers and policy-makers should not consider an increase in reported happiness as an overriding objective.”
Following NYC on the unhappy list is St. Joseph, Mo. (No. 2), South Bend, Ind. (No. 3), Erle, Pa. (No. 4), and Evansville-Henderson, Ind. (No.5). Detroit made No. 7 on the unhappy list, along with Jersey City at No. 8, and Scranton, Pa. (yes, from The Office) at No. 10.
The 10 happiest cities are mostly in Louisiana. Six cities in the state made the happy list, including Lafayette at No. 1.