Study: Connecticut in a ‘sad’ state

Things are looking a little gloomy in Connecticut residents’ Twitter feeds.

A new study out of the University of Vermont found that Connecticut is the No. 14 saddest state in the nation, according to an analysis of Twitter posts by state residents. While the island state of Hawaii enjoyed top billing as the nation’s happiest state, and Louisiana fell to the bottom as the saddest, Connecticut found itself sandwiched between Tennessee and Pennsylvania in the bottom third of the list.

While most Connecticut cities escaped the bottom 15 cities nationwide, Waterbury had the dubious distinction of finding itself in the bottom rungs. According to the Vermont researchers, The Brass City is the No. 11 saddest city in the nation, tucked between Alexandria and Houma, Louisiana. Well, at least it’s not Beaumont, right?

The Stamford-Bridgeport area fared a little better. A little.

While Waterbury was No. 363 of 373, Southwestern Connecticut found itself just barely above the saddest third of the country, at No. 244.

Why so serious, Connecticut? The researchers based their rankings on Tweets sent by Twitter uses in each of the 373 areas during the 2011 calendar year, assigning values to certain words, to compare the general happiness of residents throughout the course of the study.

The report’s lead author, Lewis Mitchell said in an email this afternoon that Waterbury “came out as a sad city because of an abundance of profanity, as well as a relatively large frequency of more subtle sad words like ‘not’, ‘nasty’, ‘dumb’ and even ‘bills.'”

And it looks like Waterbury isn’t the only Connecticut city with its fair share of curse words showing up in a large share of Tweets. Here’s what the word chart looked like for the Stamford-Bridgeport area:

The graph can be a bit hard to understand, but it’s actually pretty simple. The closer to the top the word is, the more influence it had on the area’s happiness coefficient (so “lol” had the greatest percentage contribution to the overall average happiness difference). The + and – signs indicate whether a word is relatively happy or sad, compared to the average for all cities, and the up and down arrows indicate whether the words were used more or less in this sample than in the nationwide average.

It’s an interesting idea, but even the study authors note that there’s room for error.Here’s the caveat the study authors include in their report:

“There are a number of legitimate concerns to be raised about how well the Twitter data set can be said to represent the happiness of the greater population. Only 15% of online adults regularly use Twitter, and 18-29 year-olds and minorities tend to be more highly represented on Twitter than in the general population. Furthermore, the fact that we collected only around 10% of all tweets during the calendar year 2011 means that our data set is a non-uniform subsample of statements made by a non-representative portion of the population.”

Southwestern Connecticut wasn’t quite as happy as our neighboring area of Norwich-New London, which was ranked No. 188 happiest, barely missing the top 50 percent. But we were a bit cheerier than Hartford, which was ranked at No. 272, and New Haven, ranked at No. 293.

What do you think?

Maggie Gordon