And the Most Miserable State in America Is …

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iStock

Where you live has a huge impact on your health and happiness: Location dictates everything from your local weather to crime rates. Each year, the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index interviews 160,000 U.S. adults about their lives, scoring different regions of the country on their residents' well-being and ranking the states based on the overall happiness of the people who live there. This year, according to USA Today, 24/7 Wall Street decided to add to that dataset by analyzing even more socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI, and elsewhere, such as poverty rates, crime, social ties, and health across the U.S. The result is a more complete picture of how happy some states are, and how miserable others are.

Some of the rankings might surprise you. Both Dakotas made it into the top 10, with South Dakota taking the overall prize for the happiest state. In the survey, residents reported a high sense of purpose, saying they like what they do each day and have reached most of their goals in the last year. More than 80 percent of respondents said they like what they do daily, more than any other state. In other high-scoring states, residents report a strong sense of security, good public health, and strong social ties. (Low crime and unemployment rates help.)

Here are the 10 happiest states in the U.S., according to the rankings.

1. South Dakota
2. Vermont
3. Hawaii
4. Minnesota
5. North Dakota
6. Colorado
7. New Hampshire
8. Idaho
9. Utah
10. Montana

Meanwhile, economic concerns and high crime dominate the responses within the rankings of the most miserable states in the U.S. West Virginia, the least happy state on the list, is plagued by financial insecurity and poor health outcomes. In the survey, West Virginians had the lowest numbers of people who said they were in "near perfect" physical health, liked what they do every day, or have strong social ties. Other states in the top 10 list of least happy states include Louisiana and Arkansas, both of which have some of the highest rates of poverty and violent crime in the country. In Oklahoma, one out of five people who responded to the survey said they struggled to afford food, and in Kentucky, 23 percent of respondents said they have been depressed in their lifetime.

These are the 10 most miserable states, according to these calculations.

1. West Virginia
2. Louisiana
3. Arkansas
4. Mississippi
5. Oklahoma
6. Kentucky
7. Ohio
8. Nevada
9. Indiana
10. Rhode Island

Head to USA Today to see the full list.

FYI: The FDA Has Ceased Its Food Inspections

istock.com/Olivier Le Moal
istock.com/Olivier Le Moal

It may be safe to eat romaine lettuce again, but The Hill is reporting that the FDA is suspending "most food inspections" amid the current partial government shutdown.

As the government shutdown rounds out its third week, the effects have begun to take a toll on both minor and major scales. Government workers are missing paychecks, affordable housing contracts are expiring, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not able to cover all of its usual duties. According to the official FDA website, around 55 percent of their $5.4 billion budget comes directly from federal funding, with the other 45 percent coming from industry user fees.

With fewer resources for protecting the nation's food supply, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has had to delegate most workers to investigate "high risk facilities," such as those that produce seafood or cheese.

In 2018, nearly a dozen different products were cited for salmonella contamination, including raw turkey, pre-cut melon, and even Honey Smacks cereal. The FDA also warned of a possible salmonella outbreak from eggs last May.

Though the FDA will continue to inspect foreign manufacturers and products, the agency generally conducts roughly 160 food inspections per week. They look for any possible contamination due to various unclean circumstances, and that is only the beginning of a much longer process if foods actually need to be recalled. The FDA also investigates cases sent to them by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); after an illness or outbreak has been reported, the FDA works to trace where the contaminant could have come from before recalling and pulling problematic products from the shelves. All of this takes a lot of work, as we recently reported.

[h/t The Hill]

America's Paper Towel Obsession, Explained

iStock.com/Eerik
iStock.com/Eerik

At this point, the Brawny man can probably afford something nicer than a flannel shirt. Americans spend roughly $5.7 billion annually on paper towels, using them to clean up everything from spilled coffee to baby dribble to windows. Roll after roll is unspooled from a paper towel holder, makes a detour into a mess, then winds up directly in the garbage.

Are we really so lazy that we can’t wring out and reuse a sponge, a cloth wipe, or washable napkins? Or has Big Towel brainwashed us into believing that paper towels are simply the most convenient method of keeping things clean?

The question was recently explored by The Atlantic's Joe Pinsker, who noticed that Americans make up nearly half of the world’s paper towel use. (Second-place France spends just $635 million per year on discarded towels, little more than a tenth of what the U.S. shells out.) Pinsker wondered if it was due in part to population, but even on a per capita basis, we still spend more on towels than any other country in the world. Countries with comparable economies don’t buy as much as we do.

It turns out that the reasoning behind our alleged paper towel obsession may reside in how we problem-solve. In using a disposable towel, a mess can be immediately addressed and discarded, leaving no trace or obligation to clean our cleaning supplies.

There may also be pragmatic reasons: Using one-time-use towels reduces the chances of cross-contamination. (Imagine a sponge covering a bacteria-covered surface, then being set aside for reuse later.) And in a public bathroom setting, paper towels may actually be more hygienic than hand dryers, which can spread bacteria.

If you have a paper towel addiction, one tip Pinsker passed along is to consider reusing them. (Provided, of course, the mess wasn’t made up of raw meat or fish.) Sturdier paper towels can sometimes stand up to multiple applications before they start to break apart. You can also try using fewer towels by folding one in half and taking advantage of what’s known as interstitial suspension to trap water between the layers.

[h/t The Atlantic]

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