When I saw that map, the first thing I thought about was a similar map we've all seen so many times from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) which shows obesity rates across the country (see map below).
These maps make me think about the old chicken vs. the egg argument. Which came first, the weight gain or the negative attitude? Thinking about it, I thought of course the happiness is first then weight follows. My wife saw this and thought of course the weight gain came first and then the decline in happiness follows. We each saw it totally differently.
My theory is this: happiness leads to healthy behaviors. I'm not discussing obesity rates, I'm talking about behaviors. The states that are happiest--California, Colorado, Arizona Nevada, Minnesota, etc--also seem to have lower obesity rates. Ok, so I don't love BMI as a tool to determine health but for the sake of this argument it is an interesting basic correlation.
It reminds me of another theory about health as it relates to behaviors and that is Blue Zones, These are communities around the world where people have longer life spans than the general populations. The notion is by looking at these communities we can try to see the key to not just living longer but also living better. The Blue Zone site recommends the Power 9®: the behaviors these Blue Zones have in common that lead to longevity. If you take a look at them you'll notice that many are about belonging, connection with people, friendships and overall happiness.
My theory is simple. Live happier, live longer. I don't care what your weight is but if you are happier, you are going to have healthier behaviors that will help you have a better quality of life.
Think about it, when you are depressed, sad, lonely, bored or angry, how many of us go to food to help us feel better? Perhaps if we worked on being happier instead of being thinner we'd eat a lot better. We'd move our bodies more. We'd live longer and live better.
So what do you think? Is your health determined by your happiness?