Missouri ranked among least happy states

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COLUMBIA - Missouri ranks among the least happy states in America in 2014 according to Wallet Hub, but just recently Columbia was named 46 out of 100 of the best cities in the U.S. to live in according to Livability.com.

"Happiness depends on several things," said Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid.

When faced with the question, "Are you happy?", most Columbia residents confidently said yes. Many responded with a story, or a motto that they refer to throughout life.

Amy Schneider, a Columbia resident of more than 20 years, said her family is what makes her happy. She said having her daughter and being married for 15 years are two of the best decisions she's ever made. 

"I work for the city of Columbia, so my job is to go outside of Columbia to sell it and tell everyone how great it is and tell them to come visit," said Schneider. "So, I obviously have to be happy and love it to tell it to people, but it's an easy sell."

Mayor Bob McDavid said the economy plays a key role in the quality of life. Livability.com states: "Being a great place to live also means being a great place to work."

Forbes ranked Columbia as one of the 6 best small places for business and careers. The Wallet Hub data, which ranks Missouri among the least happy, shows those that fall in median income of the state, or as some would consider the "middle class," are not always statistically shown to be happier.

The unemployment rate in Boone County is 19%, but the unemployment rate in Columbia is 6.78% compared to the 6.1% unemployment rate for the United States.

"My philosophy on life is the old adage of when life gives you lemons, make lemonade," said Schneider. "You can be unhappy and make those around you unhappy, or you can take what you're given and make the best out of it."

Tony Barnes is homeless and also an epileptic who has lived in Columbia for more than 15 years. He ranked his quality of life as a six out of 10 despite the fact that it has always been hard to find and keep a job due to his illness.

"I mean life's been hard, but I'm living. That's a blessing," said Barnes as he sat on the corner of Hitt Street. "It's hard, but I'm still here."

Schneider, someone with quite a different life than Tony Barnes, said life will never go smoothly, and things will never be 100% happy all of the time.

"I think, really, deep down, when you're unhappy, you've made some sort of choice or something has happened to you that hasn't been your choice," said Schneider.

Wallet Hub used three dimensions to measure happiness and the overall pleasantness of life in each state: emotional and physical well-being, work, and community environment and recreational activities. Missouri ranked 43 in emotional and physical well-being, 15 in work, and 38 in community environment and recreational activities.

Wallet Hub then identified 26 relative metrics within those three dimensions to analyze them further, such as illness and disability index, which measures self-reported effects of illness and disability on personal happiness, divorce rate, unemployment and safety. Wallet Hub stated in the study, "Happiness is more than a feeling of joy or excitement. It relies on different aspects of a person's life - from emotional well-being to job satisfaction."