Home Howard County A recent study by WalletHub ranked Columbia as the 9th happiest city...

A recent study by WalletHub ranked Columbia as the 9th happiest city in America for 2024


With the International Day of Happiness coming up on March 20, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2024’s Happiest Cities in America, as well as expert commentary, in an effort to find out which cities provide the best conditions for Americans’ mental and physical well being.

To identify the happiest cities, WalletHub compared more than 180 of the largest U.S. cities across 29 key indicators of happiness. The data set ranges from the depression rate to the income-growth rate to the average leisure time spent per day.

Happiness in Columbia (1=Happiest, 91=Avg.):

  • Overall Rank: 9th
  • 36th – Depression Rate
  • 54th – Adequate-Sleep Rate
  • 4th – Suicide Rate
  • 11th – Sports-Participation Rate
  • 26th – Separation & Divorce Rate

For the full report, please visit:


Here is how Columbia was ranked in past WalletHub studies on Happiest City in America:

2023: Ranked 7th
2022: Ranked 2nd
2021: Ranked 8th
2020: Ranked 36th


Expert Commentary

Does an individual’s happiness increase or decrease with age?

“The main factor is that happiness requires more intention as we age. Many children seem happier than adults if they are allowed to engage their imagination and trust that other people care for them. In an ideal scenario, children are free to live lives of wonder and trust in those who love them. As we age, we tend to be confronted with more of life’s difficulties and responsibilities and we experience more relational hurt. However, aging also gives us more autonomy and wisdom, which we can use to convert imagination and wonder into meaningful work. The question is, are we holding onto creativity and prioritizing relationships as our life experience and responsibility increase? If we can carry the skills we possess as children into adulthood and add to them, we can build more fulfilling and impactful lives as time goes on. For those who did not receive the support they needed as children, age also provides an opportunity to seek more healing and show compassion to the ‘inner child,’ which can lead to increased happiness.”
Lily Corley – Assistant Director of Career Development, Lipscomb University

“Much of the research on happiness and development, at least in the US, suggests there is a ‘U-shaped curve’ wherein people, on average, become less happy through their 30s and 40s, and happier into their 50s and later life. There are numerous explanations for this, including the normative challenges of midlife (e.g., work stress, family responsibilities) as well as the psychological traps into which we often fall (e.g., comparing ourselves to the unrealistic portrayals our ‘friends’ post on social media). Fortunately, the mechanisms for building happiness are generally effective at any age, such as cultivating meaningful relationships, focusing on gratitude, and savoring positive experiences when they happen.”
Matthew Joseph, Ph.D. – Associate Professor; Program Director, Counselor Education, Duquesne University

Can money buy happiness?

“Sadly, yes. Gallup released a study in November that noted that money can indeed buy happiness and the magic number was around $75,000. The survey subjects felt an annual wage of $75,000 per year would ensure that they could meet basic needs, save for the future, and worry less about financial pressures. It would also allow them the funds or peace of mind to pursue interests and hobbies outside of their career. It demonstrates that safety, security, and shelter are important factors before one can have the luxury of pursuing Happiness through interests, hobbies, or leisure pursuits. Friendships, relationships, family, and our immediate community are the basic building blocks for happiness and those are free. It is easy to forget that when one is struggling with [basic] needs.”
Lisa Jane Laird – Director, Career Center, Snow College

“It turns out this is a more complicated question than most people realize, and the research on it is still evolving. Probably the simplest way to say it is that money can buy happiness to a certain point, after which the returns diminish. A person living in poverty is, on average, less happy than a person who makes enough money to pay the bills, have adequate health care, save a little, and take the occasional vacation; and those in the top 1% are, on average, likely a good bit happier than the first person in poverty but only slightly happier (if at all) compared to the second person.”
Matthew Joseph, Ph.D. – Associate Professor; Program Director, Counselor Education, Duquesne University

What tips do you have for someone who is unhappy with their career?

“One of the primary factors of unhappiness in careers, and in life, is holding onto the belief that we are powerless to change things…If you are unhappy with your career, I would recommend dedicating a window of time to sit down and reflect on the things you like and do not like about your current job. Make a list. This will help you organize your feelings into parts that you can assess. You might be in the wrong career or you might simply feel taken advantage of because you are not happy with your salary or your schedule. Perhaps it is the commute that you do not like or a problem with the company culture. If you can identify exactly what is making you unhappy, you can come up with an action plan. On one hand, if your job does not allow you to operate within your strengths and passions, find a mentor in a new field that interests you and start networking. Then, you can build up a support system that will make a job transition easier in the future. Start exploring and gaining knowledge (a career coach could help with this, too). On the other hand, if you like your job but do not like your salary or environment, practice advocating for yourself by speaking honestly with your supervisor about what needs to change. Their response will provide insight into the potential for a better future at that company.”
Lily Corley – Assistant Director of Career Development, Lipscomb University

“Before quitting your current job, research career areas that may be interesting to you that will benefit from the [transferable] skills, knowledge, and abilities that you have now, but include values and interests in your search, too. Often an unhappy career choice can be linked to a disconnect in values rather than your skills. Use the career professionals at your former college or university to help guide you. Every U.S. state also has an office for workforce services or similar name that offers career exploration services, too.”
Lisa Jane Laird – Director, Career Center, Snow College



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