(NBC NEWS) -- California wine country may be the happiest place in the United States, at least if its Twitter feed is any indication.
An analysis of the sentiments in 10 million location-tagged tweets has revealed that Napa, Calif., is the happiest U.S. city,
while Hawaii is the happiest state. Beaumont, Texas, is the least
happy, according to the findings published Tuesday (Feb. 19) in the
preprint journal arXiv.org.
Many different organizations track happiness. The United Nations published a World Happiness Report ranking
countries by well-being, while Gallup and Healthways collect polling
data from the United States. But those surveys aren't measuring what
people say in real-time instead relying on survey questions.
see how tweets could reveal city-level happiness, University of Vermont
mathematician Lewis Mitchell and his colleagues created a tool called
the "hedonmeter." The hedonmeter collected 10 million tweets that had
location data attached from 373 urban areas in the United States —
nearly 10 percent of all of Twitter's 2011 posts with location data.
They then broke them into individual words.
To figure out which
words were happy, sad or neutral, the team used ratings that came from
10,000 users of a website called Mechanical Turk, who assessed 5,000
common words. Curse words and
words like "hate" or "wrong" tended to be rated as sad words, while
words such as "lol," "sleep" and "funny" were rated as happy.
general, the Bible Belt and the industrial Rust Belt, which straddles
the Midwest and Northeast, rated as less happy than cities in the
Western part of the country. Beaumont, Tex., an industrial city in the
Gulf, rated as the least happy city, while Louisiana was the least
Not surprisingly, happiness correlated with income
level in different geographic areas. In addition, happiness seemed to
be inversely correlated with obesity rates in that area, but this could be due to chronic health problems that are more prevalent in obese people, the authors note.
The 10 happiest cities were:
San Clemente, Calif.
Santa Fe, N.M.
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Green Bay, Wis.
Santa Rosa, Calif.
Simi Valley, Calif.
The 10 least happy cities:
Texas City, Texas
Battle Creek, Mich.
Of course, there are limitations to the methodology, like having a skewed sample of the population.
15 percent of online adults regularly use Twitter, and 18-29 year olds
and minorities tend to be more highly represented on Twitter than in
the general population," the authors write in the paper.
And as Alexis Madrigal notes at The Atlantic,
it's possible these differences reflect regional or cultural
differences in how people express their happiness, not underlying
Past research has found a variety of factors
linked with happiness, including education levels, economic indicators
and personality traits. For instance, a study published in 2009 found
the happiest states tended
to have more residents with advanced educations and jobs that were
considered "super-creative." In addition, people living in the happiest
states are more relaxed than their gloomy counterparts; States like
West Virginia and Mississippi, which scored high on neuroticism also
showed lower well-being scores, those researchers reported in the
Journal of Research in Personality.
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