Is it possible to measure the overall average happiness of states by using the words of residents, as posted on Twitter? A team of researchers at the University of Vermont says yes.
Using the Mechanical Turk Language Assessment word list, which scores words on a scale of 1 (sad) to 9 (happy), a recent study examined geotagged tweets from 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., coding each tweet for happiness.
"Happy" words were defined as things like rainbow (8.1), love, hope and wonderful, while negative words were defined as things like earthquake (1.9), boo, ugly and lied. Vulgarity also ranked negatively, bumping down scores through what researchers called, "geoprofanity."
In addition to ranking states by happiness, researchers also calculated happiness for nearly 400 cities, tied their data with other existing measures of happiness, such as Gallup surveys, and examined how their data correlates with income and obesity in an area.
Although researchers don't take the context of words into account when looking at tweets, they argue that large amounts of text can still give reliable results.
"An analogy is that of temperature," the research report said. "While the motion of a small number of particles cannot be expected to accurately characterize the temperature of a room, an average over a sufficiently large collection of such particles defines a durable quantity."
Read the full report at www.uvm.edu.
The abundance of "happy" words such as "beach" and food-related words in tweets from Hawaii led the state to nab the title of the happiest state, according to researchers.
Hawaii's happy state abbreviation — "HI" — helped skew the numbers in its favor, the study said, but "the rich variety of happy words occurring in Hawaii paints a convincing picture of it as a happy state regardless of this small bias."
Hawaii ranked at 6.17 on the happiness scale. The mean value of the entire United States was 6.01.
Some happy words used in Hawaii tweets included beach, thanks, pearl, coffee, resort, shopping, island, restaurant, spa, food and paradise.
>> Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, top center, addresses a joint session of the Hawaii State Legislature giving his state of the state address at the Hawaii State Capitol Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, in Honolulu.
Louisiana is the saddest state in the U.S. "primarily as a result of an abundance of profanity relative to the other states," the study said.
The state ranked at 5.88 on the happiness scale.
In the study's examination of the happiness of nearly 400 cities, Lousiana's Mandevill-Covington area came in 197th, and Slidell, La., was ranked 327th.
Some sad words used in Louisiana tweets included things like pressure, ain't, gone, bored, stupid, mad, hungry, tired, jail and hate. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the state's overall score.
>> Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne address the crowd Monday, Jan. 9, 2012 during inaugural ceremonies at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, La.
Maine was ranked as the second happiest state with its 6.14 happiness ranking, while the Dover-Rochester Delaware/Maine area and Portland, Maine, made the list of happiest cities.
Some happy words used in Maine tweets included Sunday, beach, river, great, forest, home, family and awesome.
>> The Maine State House is framed by spruce trees in Capitol Park, Friday, Dec. 10, 2010, in Augusta, Maine.
In the study, researchers looked at language and happiness "clusters," where similarities between states could be found based on word usage. Mississippi, which ranked as the second saddest state, was included in a cluster with Lousiana, which was ranked as the saddest state.
Mississippi had a happiness ranking of 5.89.
Some sad words used in Mississippi tweets included things like gone, ain't, miss, boo, ugh, bad, mad, hungry, wrong and lie. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the state's overall score.
>> The Mississippi Capitol is shown through the limbs of a blooming Japenese magnolia in downtown Jackson, Miss. on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2005.
Nevada came in as the third happiest state, boasting a 6.12 ranking.
Reno, Nev., made the happiest cities list, coming in 122nd with a happiness ranking of 6.04.
Some happy words used in Nevada tweets included Vegas, resort, paradise, health, rainbow, grand, palace, hotel, pool and sunset.
>> Smoke from a fire rises in the cloud bank behind the Nevada State Capitol in this file photo.
Although Maryland was listed as the third saddest state in the U.S. with its 5.90 ranking, individual towns did a little better, with the Westminster-Eldersburg area ranking as the 66th most happy city, Frederick, Md., as the 221st, and Salisbury, Md., as the 294th.
Sad words used in Maryland tweets included things like hospital, not, don't, hate, mad, ain't, kill, dumb, tired, bored and ugly. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the state's overall score.
>> Maryland capitol building Police stand guard near the state capitol in Annapolis, Md., Nov. 27, 2007 (
Utah ended up with a 6.11 ranking in the study, nabbing the title of the fourth happiest state in the U.S.
A plethora of Utah towns and areas also made the list of the happiest cities in the U.S., with Provo-Orem coming in 33rd, St. George coming in 36th, Logan coming in 80th, Salt Lake City/West Valley City coming in 83rd and Ogden-Layton coming in 167th.
Some happy words used in Utah tweets included lake, haha, great, park, thanks, pleasant, awesome, gift, university, free, amazing and excited.
>> Vincent Garcia clears snow at the Capitol as the state Legislature begins its 2013 session, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013.
Delaware was ranked as the fourth saddest state in the U.S., although Dover, Del., squeaked onto the happiest cities list at 344th out of 373.
Sad words used in Delaware tweets included things like hate, not, don't, ain't, dumb, tired, ill, bad, bored, ugly, stop and kill. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the state's overall score.
>> The Delaware Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware, United States, 2003.
Vermont was listed as the 5th happiest state, according to an examination of its geotagged tweets that led to its 6.11 ranking.
Burlington, Vt., came in as the 48th happiest city.
Some happy words used in Vermont tweets included resort, snow, love, college, mountain, beach, coffee, pearl and Christmas.
>> Visitors head to the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt., July 5, 2000.
Georgia, the Peach State, came in as the fifth saddest city in the U.S., although state capitol Atlanta, Ga., made it onto the happiest cities list in the 307th spot.
Sad words used in Georgia tweets included things like ain't, gone, mad, fool, boo, lame, wrong, terminal, nobody, ill, ugh and smoke. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the state's overall score.
>> The Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta from the outside Friday, Jan. 5, 1996.
Colorado and its cities gave a strong showing in the study rankings, with the entire state coming in as the 6th happiest, at 6.10.
Longmont, Colo., was ranked as the 3rd happiest city in the U.S., while the Lafayette-Louisville-Erie, Colo., area was ranked 8th, Boulder, Colo., was 10th, Fort Collins, Colo., was 12th and the Denver-Aurora area was 56th. Additional cities also made the list.
Some happy words used in Colorado tweets included springs, great, love, park, beach, international, awesome, beautiful, home and Starbucks.
>> The State Capitol in downtown Denver on Friday, March 25, 2005.
Alabama, with its 5.94 ranking, was listed in the study as the sixth saddest state in the U.S.
Although the state didn't do well in the overall study, Alabama cities like Florence and Birmingham made it onto the happiest cities list in the 204th and 280th spots respectively.
Sad words used in Alabama tweets included things like gone, war, boo, stupid, wrong, weak, moan and tornado. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the state's overall score.
>> The Alabama Capitol in Montgomery, Ala., is pictured Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012.
Continuing the trend of happy Western states, Idaho came in as the 7th happiest state, with a 6.10 ranking.
Idaho Falls, according to data from the study, is the second happiest city in the U.S., coming in behind Napa, Calif.
Some happy words used in Idaho tweets included sun, home, coffee, great, valley, resort, amazing, pretty, garden, mountain, family and sweet.
>> The dome of the Idaho Statehouse looms over the foothills of Boise.
Michigan made the list of saddest states in the U.S., coming in in seventh place. Some of its cities, however, including Holland, Lansing and Detroit, made it onto the happiest cities list in the 54th, 267th and 345th spots.
Sad words used in Michigan tweets included things like don't, gone, hate, mad, never, battle, shut, fake and ugly. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the state's overall score.
>> The State Capitol Building in Lansing, Mich., Saturday, June 24, 2000.
New Hampshire's 6.09 score in the study landed the state the title of eighth happiest, while Manchester, N.H., was listed as the 51st happiest city.
Some happy words used in New Hampshire tweets included park, great, Christmas, awesome, restaurant, haha, fitness and happy.
>> The New Hampshire statehouse in Concord, N.H., July 20, 1999.
Although not a state, the Washington D.C. area made the unhappiest list, coming in in eighth place.
Confusingly, though, the Washington,D.C.-Virginia-Maryland area ranked as 326th in the happiest cities list.
Sad words used in Washington, D.C., tweets included things like kill, mad, ain't, war, earthquake, hurt, boo, bill, hurricane and hospital. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the area's overall score.
>> In this photo provided by NASA, a United States Marine Corps helicopter flies over Washington with the full moon and the U.S. Capitol in the background Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, as seen from Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Washington, the Evergreen State, came in ninth in the happiness rankings with its score of 6.08.
Spokane, Wash., is the eleventh happiest city in the U.S., according to the data, while Seattle, the Olympia-Lacey area, Maryville, Bellingham, Bremerton, Yakima and others also made the list.
Some happy words used in Washington tweets included love, sea, coffee, great, international, awesome, first, lake, health and Starbucks.
>> The Legislative Building at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., is shown through as daffodils bloom, Tuesday, April 10, 2012.
Arkansas continued the trend of sad Southern, East Coast and Midwestern states, coming in as the ninth saddest state in the U.S., according to geotagged tweets.
The state was ranked 5.95 on the happiness scale.
Sad words used in Arkansas tweets included things like gone, don't, ain't, falling, hospital, accident, traffic, hate, tired, bad, warning, pressure and mean. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the area's overall score.
>> The moon appears behind the cupola at the Arkansas state Capitol building, Oct. 13, 2006.
Wyoming rounds out the top 10 happiest state in the U.S., with a ranking of 6.08.
Cheyenne, the state capitol and the most populous city in the state, was ranked as 255th happiest in the nation as well.
Some happy words used in Wyoming tweets included lol, great, college, health, grand, travel, park, springs, river, faithful, green, snow, play and America.
>> The State Capitol in downtown Cheyenne, Wyo., Jan. 30, 1998.
Ohio, the Buckeye State, tops out the list of the 10 saddest cities in the U.S. with its 5.96 ranking.
Although the state as a whole may be sad, cities like Newark and Columbus made the happiest cities list, coming in at 86th and 213th respectively.
Sad words used in Ohio tweets included things like hate, hospital, accident, pissed, sick, blocked, mean, annoying, tired and pressure. Vulgarity in tweets also dropped the area's overall score.
>> J. B. Lawton of Dublin, Ohio holds up an American flag in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 25, 2004.
8. New Hampshire
15. New York
16. New Mexico
19. North Dakota
29. New Jersey
30. West Virginia
32. Rhode Island
35. South Dakota
40. South Carolina
41. North Carolina
44. District of Columbia