February 20, 2013
10 Million Tweets Shed Light On The Geography Of Happiness
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Researchers have turned to the pioneer microblogging service Twitter to help them determine the happiest and saddest states in the US.
Scientists at the University of Vermont studied 10 million tweets posted from 373 different sites across the country, ranking the saddest and happiest states based on the frequency of happy and sad words posted onto the microblogging site. Hawaii was found to be the happiest state during the study, while the researchers say Louisiana was the saddest.
The combination of social media technology and mathematical formulas also indicated that Napa, California was the happiest city in the country, while Beaumont Texas ranked as the most miserable.
Second to Louisiana was Mississippi as the saddest state, followed by Maryland, Delaware and Georgia. On the whole, the east coast tended to have a surplus of sad states, while west coast states appeared to have the happiest inhabitants.
As the second happiest state in the US, Maine was a bold exception to the east coast rule, followed by Nevada, Utah and Vermont. Longmont, CO was the second happiest city in America, followed by San Clemente, CA; Sante Fe, NM and Santa Cruz, CA. In all, Colorado had an impressive four cities in the top 15 happiest cities, while California held six of those positions.
After Beaumont, TX followed Albany, GA as the second saddest city in the land. Just behind Albany were Texas City, TX, Shreveport, La and Monroe, LA.
While using Twitter might seem a scientifically questionable method for measuring happiness, the researchers point out that the list correlates well with other existing Gallup surveys of happiness across the country. Moreover, their list also matches up with other statistics such as income and obesity rates.
Critics of the study have pointed out that both Napa and Hawaii are well-known vacation spots in the US, so results from these cities may be heavily skewed. In general, states that boast mild and sunny weather — like Hawaii, Florida and California — tended to be the happier places, according to the study. The Atlantic also pointed out that the researchers did not take into account Spanish-speaking tweets, which might have significantly altered the results in states like California that have a high percentage of Spanish speakers.
"The prevalence of Western states with large Latino populations on the happy list would seem to suggest this bias is worth exploring," Atlantic writer and senior editor Alexis Madrigal pointed out.
In December, researchers published a similar report on the healthiest states in the US. This study found that Vermont was the healthiest state in the country, followed by Hawaii. Louisiana and Mississippi were ranked as the least healthy states, results that correlated well with the recent Twitter study.