Hoosierlandia one of the saddest places in the nation?


You are a Hoosier. Born a Hoosier. Grew up a Hoosier and see no reason to be anywhere else.

You root for the Cream and Crimson of Bloomington, or perhaps the blue-collared Boilermakers, owing to the fact you think everyone in Bloomington is a communist smarty pants.

You think of Indianapolis as the “big city” and never wondered how or why Mike Pence got his hair to look like a blonde Brillo Pad.

But are you a happy Hoosier? Are you fulfilled, content, well paid and healthy? Have you even thought about the status and quality of your happiness?

Others have. WalletHub has thought of you. Wallet-Hub is a know-it-all data collection and analysis website that comes riding into my computer in-basket regularly.

WalletHub is like the Wells Fargo Wagon in “The Music Man,” not the thuggish criminal Wells Fargo of fake accounts, hacked credit cards and 5,000 fired workers we know now. You can never predict every month what storytelling slice of data WalletHub will deliver. But, like Winthrop in River City, I-o-waay, it’s always something special, just for me.

The news this month, fellow Hoosiers, is that Hoosierlandia is a sad, emotionally drained, dispirited place. We have no cures to reveal, though the mood likely could have been worse if Pence and his silver Brillo Pad hair hadn’t left the state.

The data collators and collectors of WalletHub say only nine states among the nation’s 50 plus D.C. are sadder places than Indiana.

Of course, most political “red states” suffer moody blues.

The states at the bottom of the annual “Happiest States In America” list are the traditional red-state armpits of bottom-dweller West Virginia followed closely by Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee. There are a few more places where you don’t want to live. And then at No. 40 is Indiana.

The data measures 28 different metrics subdivided by Emotional and Physical Well-being (Indiana is 44th), Work Environment (12th, not bad) and Community and Environment (33). Read it all for yourself at wallethub.com/edu/happiest-states/6959/

What difference does it make if you are happy or depressed? First, science shows happy people live longer, and even subjective well-being contributes to longevity. Making more money also makes life happier.

As opposed to Indiana, the state of Utah is No. 1 in statistical happiness — Utahans work fewer hours than any other state, have the lowest divorce rates, lowest heart attack rates, and participate the most in community volunteerism. Utah is theoretically exuberant, except that it also sports the fifth highest suicide rate.

If you ever had to spend a month in so-sober-it-squeaks Utah, you know why that is.

Of course, there is no sure way to prove Indiana is a sad place.

Beyond data, we judge personal happiness at a more existential level. You know you are happy or sad because you judge yourself where life is harder.

But factually, group life in Indiana is harder than in 40 other states.

Of my several non-relational friends — I actually have three of four who like me despite equal reasons to dislike me — live and work in Alabama, a state I once passed through en route to elsewhere and had no reason to dither there. They chose Bama, stayed consciously and seem happy enough in their pursuits.

But there is no list of American failed states — our national litany of Libyas — that does not include Alabama among the relatively worst places to live — health, education, income, government, opportunity, civic enlightnment, ethics and general satisfaction with the universe all are at the bottom. Perpetually. Unmoving and staunchly impervious to improvement, Alabama has been a civic dirt road for two centuries with no sign of getting better, and yet people of good will and intelligence still live there.

Why would a thoughtful person put up with Alabama? Partly, that’s because those born in the state were educated in the state; raised there; married in the state. They are gripped by inertia and might not know the world is filled with extraordinary places to live, work and grow. And make lots more money.

Seventy percent of all current Alabamans were born there, and likely will die there. It’s a Southern thing. Also it seldom snows there. That’s a life-satisfaction plus.

Alabamans and Hoosiers don’t know how deliriously happy they’d be living in Utah.

But unless you are interested in inescapable sobriety, downhill skiing or polygamy, there’s little motivation to live in Utah.

Being statistically happy isn’t everything.

David Rutter is a writer for the (Merrillville) Post-Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].

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