Factors that can affect happiness - thoughts from Dr. Chip Espinoza

Wallet Hub 2022 Happiest Cities in America Full Story Here

Dr. Chip Espinoza Excerpt Below

What tips do you have for someone who is unhappy with their career? 

Identify what it is that makes them unhappy (Boss? Colleagues? Lack of meaning? Compromising of values?). The reflection can determine the type of change that needs to be made. For instance, the new company rather than new industry, transfer within the company, etc. Life is too short to be miserable where you spend the majority of your life. The next step is to identify fears that inhibit you from making a change. I think many people are afraid of having a conversation with their boss and therefore they do not allow themselves to seek their preferred future. If your boss does not care about you, your future, or your unhappiness, then you should make a transition anyway.

Does an individual’s happiness increase or decrease with age? 

The question reminds me of the adage, “A pessimist is an optimist with experience.” I think the happiness quotient correlates with being in a job where you are deploying your best self and recognized for it. I believe that to be true for both young and old. Let’s face it, ageism happens in early and late careers.

How much does where you live influence your happiness? 

I believe it has a huge impact. Long commutes and traffic are happiness killers. I hope that COVID has taught us that our workforce can be productive in a virtual or flex schedule. I grew up in Northern New Mexico and I love the mountains and native food. I have lived in Southern California for the past 35-years, but I live in a canyon at the base of Saddleback Mountain. It is life-giving to me to drive home to the canyon. As for the food, I still order my Chile from New Mexico.

Can money buy happiness? 

From a theological perspective, I would say no, but from an ontological perspective, I would say yes. I have seen people in the poorest of countries walking the streets arm-in-arm with smiles on their faces. I have seen people of wealth living in torment. I have also seen people of wealth living happy lives. I think when money becomes the benchmark for one’s identity or self-worth, it will never be enough to make you happy. That being said, my goal as a young adult was to be able to fill the gas tank to full and afford fast food. Now, I want to put my daughter through college. That makes me happy and that takes money.

What advice do you have for people dealing with the pandemic blues?

I think helping others is the best way to help yourself through the blues.


In order to determine the happiest cities in America, WalletHub compared 182 of the largest cities — including the 150 most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across three key dimensions: 1) Emotional & Physical Well-Being, 2) Income & Employment and 3) Community & Environment.

We evaluated these categories using 30 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing maximum happiness. Data for metrics marked with an asterisk (*) were available only at the state level.

We then determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Our analysis draws upon the findings of the following research, each of which has indicated a correlation between our data and happiness:

  • Happy People Live Longer: Subjective Well-Being Contributes to Health and Longevity (Chan and Diener, 2010)
  • Happiness from Ordinary and Extraordinary Experiences (Bhattacharjee and Mogilner, 2014)
  • Sports Participation and Happiness: Evidence from U.S. Micro Data (Huang and Humphreys, 2010)
  • Unhappy Cities (Glaeser, et al., 2014)

Emotional & Physical Well-Being - Total Points: 50

  • Life-Satisfaction Index: Full Weight (~2.82 Points)
  • Depression Rate: Double Weight (~5.63 Points)
  • Suicide Rate: Full Weight (~2.82 Points)
  • Adequate-Sleep Rate: Double Weight (~5.63 Points)
  • Physical-Health Index: Double Weight (~5.63 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults reporting good or better health.
  • Sports-Participation Rate: Double Weight (~5.63 Points)
  • Share of People Aged 12 or Older Who Used Marijuana in the Past Month: Half Weight (~1.41 Points)
  • Retail Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed per 100 Persons: Quarter Weight (~0.70 Points)
  • Share of Adults with Mental Health Not Good: Double Weight (~5.63 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the percentage of adults with 14 or more mentally unhealthy days reported in the past month.
  • Life Expectancy: Full Weight (~2.82 Points)
  • Food-Insecurity Rate: Double Weight (~5.63 Points)
  • Percentage of Residents Who Are Fully Vaccinated: Double Weight (~5.63 Points)

Income & Employment - Total Points: 25

  • Income-Growth Rate: Double Weight (~3.13 Points)
  • Share of Households Earning Annual Incomes Above $75,000: Full Weight (~1.56 Points)
  • Poverty Rate: Full Weight (~1.56 Points)
  • Job Satisfaction: Full Weight (~1.56 Points)
  • 4+ Star Job Opportunities per Total People in the Labor Force: Full Weight (~1.56 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the number of job opportunities at 4+ star rated companies on Glasssdoor.com per the total people in the labor force.
  • Job Security: Full Weight (~1.56 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the probability of unemployment.
  • Unemployment Rate: Double Weight (~3.13 Points)
  • Underemployment Rate: Double Weight (~3.13 Points)
  • Bankruptcy Rate: Double Weight (~3.13 Points)
  • Weekly Work Hours: Double Weight (~3.13 Points)
  • Commute Time: Full Weight (~1.56 Points)

Community & Environment - Total Points: 25

  • WalletHub’s "Most Caring Cities" Ranking: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Separation & Divorce Rate: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Hate-Crime Incidents per Capita: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
  • Ideal Weather: Half Weight (~1.79 Points)
    Note: This metric uses data from WalletHub’s "Cities with the Best & Worst Weather" ranking.
  • Acres of Parkland per 1,000 Residents: Half Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Average Leisure Time Spent per Day*: Double Weight (~7.14 Points)
  • Well-Being “Community” Index Score: Full Weight (~3.57 Points)
    Note: This metric refers to the “Community” section of the Sharecare Well-Being Index, which refers to “liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community.”