George Graham

“Most Miserable” States Cling to Policies of the Past

Back in 1979 – after one of those Ontario winters – I decided I’d had enough of the cold, the snow, the ice storms and the darkness, and made plans to head south. As soon as I got the immigration red tape sorted out, I put an ad in Editor & Publisher, offering my skills to American publications. Among the replies was one from Enid, Oklahoma and another from Clearwater, Florida. I’m sure you can guess which one I chose to interview for.

Oklahoma is one of the last places I would choose to live in.  Even the pictures of the place are daunting. And there are those horror stories about tornadoes wiping out homes, businesses and schools, leaving a trail of tears in their wake.

So I am not surprised to see the state listed among “America’s Most Miserable” by this year’s Gallup-Healthways survey. Pollsters asked 176,000 respondents various questions designed to determine their quality of life, and came up with the following “misery” ranking:

1. West Virginia; 2. Kentucky; 3. Mississippi; 4. Alabama; 5. Ohio; 6. Arkansas; 7. Tennessee; 8. Missouri;  9. Oklahoma; 10. Louisiana.

Residents of these “miserable” states are among the most likely to suffer from health problems such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as obesity, according to the study.

Do you notice that nine of the 10 states vote Republican? And the other one – Ohio – is what the pundits call “a toss-up.”

Tell me, if you were obese, sickly and miserable, would you vote for the status quo? Or would you go with “Hope and Change”?

To me, the stubborn loyalty of these unfortunate people to  the failed policies of the past is the great mystery of American politics.Take West Virginia, which has been the “most miserable” of all for the past five years. They’re loyal to the coal industry, which has been inflicting the worst kinds of suffering on them for generations. They don’t care what coal does to them – or the rest of us. They vote for the politician who will fight for the industry and stave off any kind of environmental regulations.

Scanning the comments below the Yahoo News item, I got a glimmer of enlightenment. Here’s an excerpt from one comment that offers a peek into the minds of these “miserable” Americans:

I was reared in the 1950s. My Dad worked as a laborer while my Mom stayed home with the six of us kids. They always made sure we had something to eat (it might be beans, potatoes, and bread), we had clothes and shoes to wear, but there was little extra. I can’t remember anyone wailing, crying, or gnashing their teeth over our situation. You see, we didn’t know we were poor. Everyone living in the entire area surrounding our home was in the same boat. We, of course, realized that in other parts of the town other people lived better than we. But, we didn’t see this difference day-in-day-out so it didn’t bother us.

What they can’t see doesn’t bother them. So they bury their heads in the sands of time and take pride in their stoic misery.

Go figure.

Click for the Yahoo item.

Click for the 10 happiest states.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for