Using over 10 million tweets, the University of Vermont ranked the 50 states on the "hedonometer." Idaho ranked number seven, a very happy and healthy spot on this happiness meter, created by the team at the Vermont Complex Systems Center. Only one of the many complements to Idaho's frequent visits on “best of” lists year after year.
The ten happiest states include Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Utah, Vermont, Colorado, Idaho, New Hampshire, Washington and Wyoming.
The Break Down
So, how does living in urban areas relate to well-being? This fascinating study performed by researchers at the University of Vermont, had researchers collecting data from over 10 million geotagged tweets from 2011 in an attempt to determine how Americans feel in urban areas across the country. Researchers connected “Twitter sentiment and expression with demographics and objective characteristics of place” in order to tag the correlation between people's expressions with where they live. How exactly did they do that?
The University's researchers gathered over 80 million words over the course of several years from the mammoth social networking site, Twitter, and combined this information with continually surveyed characteristics of all 50 states and nearly 400 urban areas. According to the University of Vermont, researchers used similarities in word use; estimated the levels of happiness in both states and cities; connected demographic characteristics with the level of happiness; and connected word choice and varying sentence lengths with urban characteristics such as obesity and education levels. Their results demonstrate how social media has the potential to demonstrate real time changes in population, i.e., obesity.
Why Research This
The purpose of the research is to find out how a geographic place correlates with and can perhaps influence society's level of happiness, and with the explosion of available data from social network use over the past 15 years, its really skyrocketed the use of data-driven applications to social sciences in large scale populations. It doesn't surprise us that Idaho fared so well on their list.
Researchers compiled their list by using codes for each tweet that tagged the content for the frequency and appearance of words that users of Amazon's Mechanical Turk service determined to be happy or sad. Idaho was calculated on their list for having a high prevalence of words in their tweets such as rainbow, enjoying, love, beauty, hope, wonderful, and wine. On the other end of the spectrum, sad tweets contained words such as jail, boo, ugly, no, hate, and lied; among a wide and varied assortment of colorful expletives.
The Official Report
According to the official report, they used the language assessment by the Mechanical Turk word list that were assembled by combining the 5,000 most frequent words that occurred in each of their four text sources: Google Books, music lyrics, the New York Times and Twitter. About 10,000 of these words were scored on a scale between 1 and 9, 1 being sad and 9 being happy. 'Rainbow', for example, scored an 8.1 while 'earthquake' ranked in as one of the saddest at 1.9. The report does admit they made no effort to take the context of the words into account, but they find that for large texts, their approach still gave reliable results.
The report was further broken down by the Atlantic, which examined the results for several urban areas to also rank the happiest and saddest cities. Napa, California earned the top spot for the happiest cities while Beaumont, Texas hit rock bottom.
However you look at the results, the study is a unique and fascinating exploration into the new ways researchers are able to quantify happiness using social media.