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These Are the 10 Unhappiest Cities in America

N.Y.Yankees vs Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium., Yankee
N.Y.Yankees vs Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium., Yankee fans are unhappy and concerned as they lose another game and the hopes of a post-season slip away. New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images

America's got some unhappy cities. Here are the worst ones

It’s no surprise that residents of cities on the decline like Detroit and Indianapolis are some of the unhappiest people in the country. Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard University found that happiness in cities is greater when a city is growing—and one thing that America’s old rust belt cities don’t have is newcomers eager to move in. But the city that tops the list as the most unhappy in America is no bankrupt old steel mill town — It’s New York City.

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.”

Here’s the rest of the rankings, in list form. The data researchers used was all self-reported, so it’s not a definitive measure of people’s well-being. But it does shed light on city dwellers’ perception of their own lives.

Top 10 happiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):

1. Richmond-Petersburg, VA
2. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, VA
3. Washington, DC
4. Raleigh-Durham, NC
5. Atlanta, GA
6. Houston, TX
7. Jacksonville, FL
8. Nashville, TN
9. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
10. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ

Top 10 unhappiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):

1. New York, NY
2. Pittsburgh, PA
3. Louisville, KY
4. Milwaukee, WI
5. Detroit, MI
6. Indianapolis, IN
7. St. Louis, MO
8. Las Vegas, NV
9. Buffalo, NY
10. Philadelphia, PA

U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest reported happiness:

1. Charlottesville, VA
2. Rochester, MN
3. Lafayette, LA
4. Naples, FL
5. Baton Rouge, LA
6. Flagstaff, AZ
7. Shreveport, LA
8. Houma, LA
9. Corpus Christi, TX
10. Provo, UT

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