Louisiana, according to some math researchers, is the saddest state in the country. And, they claim, the saddest city in the saddest state is Shreveport.
Those are among the conclusions of “The Geography of Happiness,” a study released Wednesday by University of Vermont math researchers who determined the happiness and sadness of the states and cities by linking key words and geographic locations in tweets on the Twitter social media site.
According to the study, Hawaii is the happiest state in the nation, followed by Maine, Nevada, Utah and Vermont.
Joining Louisiana on the sad end of the spectrum are Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia.
The researchers looked at more than 10 million geotagged tweets from 2011 as well as lists of words that they deemed either “happy” or “sad.” As an example, “rainbow” is a happy word while “earthquake” is a sad word, according to the study.
So how did Louisiana wind up as the saddest state in the study?
The answer is as profane as it is mundane: Louisianians like to curse.
“Louisiana is revealed as the saddest state primarily as a result of an abundance of profanity relative to the other states,” the researchers said in the study.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne isn’t buying it.
“Since when have isolated words without context in tweets become an acceptable standard for determining people’s attitudes? We still prefer Science magazine’s more scientific study from a few years ago that identifies Louisiana as the happiest state,” Dardenne wrote in an email response to The Advocate.
“I would encourage the University of Vermont to ask actual Louisianians what they would say about their own level of happiness.”
LSU demographer and sociology professor Troy Blanchard said the study is not very convincing.
“The biggest problem with this analysis is the assumption that words have a universal meaning across geographic areas,” Blanchard said. “There is no way to account for cultural variation in word meaning using this methodology.”
The study’s researchers used income and prevalence of obesity in an area to measure happiness.
And, they tracked key food words in tweets to determine happiness or sadness.
Key words such as “McDonald’s,” “wings,” “heartburn” and “ham” in tweets were considered a negative correlation to obesity while words such as “apple,” “sushi,” “tofu” and “grill” were considered a positive correlation to obesity.
Blanchard said some of the words coming out of the tweets are a reflection of culture.
“And the culture in Louisiana is rich but the culture also involves food that is not considered super healthy,” he said.
The study points out there are “legitimate concerns to be raised” about how well Twitter data can represent the happiness of the greater population. According to the study, only 15 percent of adults with access to the Internet use Twitter, and people ages 18 to 29 and minorities are more represented on Twitter than any other population group.
That said, no Louisiana cities landed among the study’s top 15 happiest cities, but four Louisiana cities — Shreveport, Monroe, Houma and Alexandria — are among the 15 saddest cities.
The saddest city of all, according to the study, is Beaumont, Texas.
The happiest city in the study: Napa, Calif.
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved