NJ ranked as a top ‘happy’ state — but that may not apply to you
With many adults having reported symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic, personal finance website WalletHub has released its report on 2021's "Happiest States in America."
The company compared all 50 states across 31 key metrics of happiness ranging from the depression rate and the positive COVID-19 testing rate to income growth and unemployment rates.
New Jersey is the 9th happiest state in the nation, scoring the best in the emotional and physical well-being category, WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said.
What is New Jersey doing well?
New Jersey ranked No. 1 in the emotional and physical well-being category. Not only does the state have low depression rates, but people are active and sleeping well. Gonzalez said these are all things that people would equate with being happy.
Currently, New Jersey has the lowest share of adult depression, even lower than Hawaii.
New Jersey also has the lowest suicide rate in the country, four times lower than Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado.
New Jersey also has the third lowest divorce and separation rate, twice as low a divorce rate than that of Nevada and Florida.
Signs of anxiety and depression
Stephanie Marcello, chief psychologist at Rutgers University, said there is a difference between anxiety and depressive disorder.
With anxiety, people tend to be afraid. There's a feeling of uneasiness about them and they dread doing anything. They are restless and often times experience a racing heart.
She said anxious people often want to avoid hanging out with friends or going to work.
They panic, worry and have "spiraling" thoughts. That's when one thought takes over another thought, then another and another, and soon it spirals to extreme levels.
Marcello said anxiety impacts a person's behavior and once it takes hold, it doesn't let go.
Depressed people lose interest in the things they once enjoyed and loved. Marcello said they often eat more and have trouble sleeping. Sleep patterns can tell a lot and are key indicators of depression.
Depressed people feel sad and exhausted. But she said it's not a normal tired. It's an actual fatigue that is so much, people typically have trouble even getting out of bed.
Thoughts of suicide and death are also key symptoms of depressive disorder.
"We need to look at the impact on how our thinking affects the way we feel or behave because it's all connected," Marcello said.
How can New Jersey do better?
While New Jersey ranks number one when it comes to emotional and well-being, it ranks 39th when it comes to the work environment.
"If you think there's a real correlation between your work life and how happy you are, that might not always be the case," Gonzalez said.
New Jersey has some making up to do when it comes to long commute times and long work hours. Residents tend to work a higher number of hours. Their commute times tend to be longer, maybe because of traffic since it is a densely populated state, she added.
Gonzalez said when people volunteer and are doing something to help someone else, they tend to be happier but volunteer hours are comparatively lower in New Jersey.
The happiest state in America, according to the report, is Utah. Minnesota is the second happiest state, followed by Hawaii, California and North Dakota. The unhappiest state is West Virginia. Arkansas is second followed by Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
Questions to ask to see if someone’s REALLY from New Jersey