Golden State = golden state of mind.

By Lauren Mazzo
March 14, 2017

Sorry, East Coasters-that whole "West Coast, Best Coast" claim might actually be legit.

Turns out, California dreamin' really is the way to live. Cities in Cali snagged a whopping 12 (!!!) of the top 20 spots in WalletHub's 2017 rankings of Happiest Places to Live. That's right: Just one of the 50 states claims ownership of nearly two-thirds of the top 20 happiest cities.

Fremont, CA (in the San Francisco Bay Area) snagged the top spot, followed by San Jose and Irvine to round out a sunny top three. San Francisco, Huntington Beach, San Diego, Oakland, Santa Rosa, Chula Vista, Santa Clarita, Garden Grove, Anaheim, and Glendale also repped the Golden State in the top 20.

Katy Perry's "California Gurls" may have us daydreaming of summer beach days and La La Land may showcase the Hollywood allure of L.A., but what exactly is it about California that keeps everyone so damn happy? Is there literally something in the water?

WalletHub looked at the 150 largest cities in the U.S. and created their rankings based on three categories: Emotional and Physical Well-Being (including depression rate, physical health index, obesity rate, life expectancy, adequate sleep rate, etc.), Income and Employment (including poverty rate, number of weekly work hours, commute time, job satisfaction, income-growth rate, etc.), and Community and Environment (including acres of park land, leisure time per day, volunteer rate, separation/divorce rate, etc.). (Cali also has three cities in the list of best places for single women. Just saying.)

Well, the weather could definitely be part of it. Sunlight boosts serotonin, which can make you feel alert, energized, and happy, according to Alex Korb, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and postdoctoral researcher at UCLA, as we previously reported. And that kinda makes sense; six cities in CA swept the top spots for lowest depression rate, including Los Angeles which has the lowest depression rate at only about 10 percent (compared to Portland, the city with the highest at 25 percent). But that's not the whole story-especially considering the latest research that has found that depression rates are consistent across latitudes, seasons, and sunlight exposure. So maybe it's really all in the relationship status: Fremont (which ranked number one overall) has the lowest separation and divorce rate (about 18 percent, compared to Detroit, with the highest at 47.31 percent).

Weirdly, not one of these top-20 CA cities ranked highly for WalletHub's Least Stressed Cities in America-but several (Fremont, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Santa Clarita, and San Fransisco) ranked top 20 in their Healthiest Cities list. (Plus, San Fran also grabbed numero uno in the Best Cities for Marathon Training.) Some great news: While income does factor into happiness (many of the highest CA cities also cinched top spots specifically in the Income & Employment category), once it hits the level of $75K/year, increasing income doesn't necessarily mean a happier life, according to WalletHub.

No plans to move to the West Coast? Cities outside California made appearances in the Happiest Cities list too: Sioux Falls, SD; Washington, DC; Scottsdale, AZ; Madison, WI; Gilbert, AZ; Overland Park, KS; and Plano, TX.

See how your city ranks in the interactive map below. Living in a (literally) blue bubble? It might be time to head west.

Source: WalletHub


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