A University of Vermont research team has analyzed more than 10 million Tweets and claims that America's "Bible belt," or more conservative southern states, are generally less happy than the rest of the country.
"The researchers coded each tweet for its happiness content, based on the appearance and frequency of words determined by Mechanical Turk workers to be happy (rainbow, love, beauty, hope, wonderful, wine) or sad (damn, boo, ugly, smoke, hate, lied)," The Atlantic explains.
The Vermont Complex Systems Center researchers did not use the context in which the tweets were made when analyzing the results for their study, which has not yet been released, but insisted that simply counting the words and averaging their happiness content produces "reliable" results.
According to the results, which were gathered from 373 urban areas in 2011, the happiest city was said to be Napa, Calif., with Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Utah and Vermont making up the rest of the list of five happiest American states. The five saddest states were: Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia.
The article notes that 14 out of the 15 saddest towns in America were found in the South, in the conservative religious states often referred to as the "Bible Belt." A map of America indicating which states were generally happier and which ones were sadder indicated some clear patterns – the west is happier than the east, and the northern states are generally happier than southern ones, the study claims.
The Vermont researchers also said that the more swearing one state showed in its Twitter posts, the sadder it was likely to be, The Town Talk noted. The team called the phenomenon "geoprofanity." Lead researcher Lewis Mitchell admitted, however, that swear words weren't always a sure sign of sadness, as certain expressions, such as the commonly used f-word, are used in a variety of different ways by people.
"One difficulty I have with the study is that it doesn't take into account that people might just talk about happiness differently in some parts of the country or within some demographic groups," the writer of The Atlantic article noted. "The study identified people with Norwegian ancestry as happier than African Americans. Is that because the Norwegians are actually happier or do they just tweet as if they're happier?"
Mitchell explained that his team is planning on eventually using these methods to track changes in happiness and health across different neighborhoods, and not only for states and cities.