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Health, Happiness, and Employment

One of the most popular facebook posts Creative Portland and 2 Degrees Portland have shared (ever) was a recent link to The Atlantic announcing the happiest states in the union, based on tweets (The Geography of Happiness According to a Million Tweets). Hawaii was first, and Maine was the runner-up for relative, collective happiness. Of course, any methodologyespecially when trying to compare 50 statesis going to be problematic in one way or another. Many people raised concerns about language, including "geoprofanity" (how swears, depending on context can be positive or negative, and how this can be a regional difference), or the fact that tweets in Spanish were not included in the study, which could skew results. One criticism applied to Maine and Hawaii is that they are both "vacation states." Critics responded by saying something to the effect of, "Maine and Hawaii are places people go on vacation, so of course those people are happy, and of course they're going to crow about it!"

Still, year-round Maine residents seemed to embrace the happy label, and shared the link many times over with apparent pride. All of this raises the question of where happiness comes from, and what life factors influence a population's collective happiness. With this study still lingering in the collective consciousness, it's especially interesting that Forbes just ranked Portland-South Portland-Biddeford as the #1 Best City for Jobs This Spring; our micro metro region tied with the more formidable San Jose-Santa Clara, California region (also known as Silicon Valley) for the top ranking in the country. If our biggest concentration of population (and Tweeters) can feel optimistic about employment prospects for themselves, friends, and family, it seems like that removes one big barrier to happiness: worrying about getting or keeping a job. The chief executive of the Portland Regional Chamber commented that he's, “very pleasantly surprised [to hear that the Portland area is one of the best cities for jobs this spring]–and happy to see that the momentum we feel here in the Portland region is justified by the numbers.”

Of course, another obvious component to happiness is health. In the Gallup "2012 State of Well-Being" report the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford axis shows up in the top quintile of the index. Maine Congressional District One, which includes the even larger area of Cumberland, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, and York counties and most of Kennebec County, also made the top quintile when the rankings were mapped to districts.

So what are the dynamics of collective happiness? Well-being and a sense of opportunity seem like a good start. Do the rankings ring true to your personal experience?

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