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North Dakota is smiles away from being the happiest state

FARGO -- North Dakotans are fatter, sadder and lacking love. Declining physical health is one of the reasons this year's Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index shows North Dakota dropped from the happiest state in the country in 2013 to the 23rd happ...

FARGO -- North Dakotans are fatter, sadder and lacking love.

Declining physical health is one of the reasons this year’s Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index shows North Dakota dropped from the happiest state in the country in 2013 to the 23rd happiest in 2014.

“North Dakota’s drop was unusually large,” said Dan Witters, research director of the Well-Being Index.

North Dakota’s drop is the biggest in the index’s seven-year history.

Witters said obesity in the state is up 3 percentage points and exercise is down more than 2 percentage points.

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Smoking is also on the rise, with the index showing North Dakotans are smoking more, up 5 percentage points compared to 2013.

Dental access in the state is also down 9 percentage points.

“North Dakota in recent years has likely been a beneficiary of its economic boom,” Witters said. “However, the influx of workers to accommodate its new economy may now be catching up with it from a well-being perspective.”

Witters said transportation, manufacturing and construction workers yield the lowest overall well-being scores; those are the type of workers flowing into the state.

North Dakota’s neighbors haven’t suffered the same fate.

It’s all smiles in South Dakota, still. South Dakota was ranked the second happiest state behind North Dakota last year, and it’s ranked third this year.

Minnesotans are frowning more, but that state only dropped seven spots, from fourth to 11th on the index.

A North Dakota Department of Health spokeswoman said no one in the department felt they were in a good position to comment on the index.

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North Dakota is also lacking love. The state ranked 45th in the social category of the survey which was defined as: “having supportive relationships and love in your life.”

If there’s any good news for North Dakotans, it’s that their wallets aren’t making them unhappy.

North Dakota ranked third in terms of financial management, and the index said that reduces a lot of stress.

The happiest state in 2014 was Alaska and the unhappiest state was West Virginia.

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