The Best States for Finding a Healthy Relationship, According to a Study

Is Virginia for lovers? Or California? Or New York?

Jan 10 2017, 8:15pm

Photo by Peter Meciar via Stocksy

According to the findings of a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, if you live in North Dakota, you may be more comfortable as a loner than as a lover. In the first nationwide study of positive relationships, researchers have determined the best and worst states for lovers by analyzing the attachment orientation of residents—whether they were more inclined to be clingy and fear abandonment or to avoid intimacy and be cold toward partners—across the country. States that scored low in both measures, such as Mississippi and Wisconsin, were considered the top places to find healthy relationships. States in the Great Plains region, on the other hand, ranked highest.

The study's participants spanned 127,070 people between the ages of 25 to 34 who completed an online survey between September 2002 and March 2012. The questionnaire measured attachment-related anxiety and attachment avoidance, asking individuals to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as ''I don't feel comfortable opening up to romantic partners" and ''I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me." Researchers also took into consideration state-level variables, including the percentage of individuals married, divorced or living alone; volunteer hours; factors of well-being; and deaths per capita.

Ultimately, they discovered North Dakota, West Virginia, and New York had the highest anxiety scores, while Mississippi, Alaska, and Vermont had the lowest. On the avoidance measure, North Dakota, Nevada, and Kentucky scored the highest while Wisconsin, Utah, and Hawaii scored the lowest.

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"Higher state-level avoidance was associated with a lower percentage of married households, a smaller household size, a lower percentage of individuals volunteering, and fewer hours of volunteering on average," the study's authors write. "Avoidance was also associated with a higher percentage of residents living alone."

One surprising find, the study states, was that "anxiety was significantly related to the percentage of married households and marginally (negatively) related to the percentage of the population reporting that they have never been married. States higher in anxiety tended to have a larger percentage of married households compared to states lower in anxiety."

Bill Chopik, one of the researchers on the study and a psychology professor at Michigan State University, says in retrospect, that discovery makes sense. "Anxiously attached people might be more quick to settle down and find—and stick with—their partner," he tells Broadly. "In general, I think anxiety is bad for relationships, but sometimes maybe it's good for keeping a partner close, [though] it comes with some clingy-ness."

What was really surprising, Chopik says, was how closely some states aligned with their stereotypes. "Highly anxious states fell in the East. Californians were laid back and not anxious. The stoic mountain regions were highly avoidant. Some places bucked these patterns, but it was still really interesting to see."

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Chopik says the work is useful because it helps explain why some states might have higher marriage rates than others. "Other people are inherently interested in knowing if they're in an environment conducive to close relationships. This research gives a practical answer to that question."

"You can find a good relationship nearly anywhere you live," he continues. "However, there are places that can exact their influence on you."

For example, Chopik says, according to research he published last year, "if you live in a region with a lot of people who are politically different than you, your relationships might be suffering."