A volleyball game on a recent Saturday at La Jolla Shores. Photo by Chris Stone

Amid the angst over drought, wildfires and the recall election comes a study that finds California is the fourth happiest state in America.

The study by the personal finance business WalletHub examined data on depression, suicide, divorce, unemployment and other indicators and concluded only Utah, Minnesota and Hawaii were happier.

California’s low-tax arch-rival Texas ranked a distant 38th in the study, and COVID-rife Florida came in 34th. Both those states ranked low on personal safety, and Florida in addition had a very high divorce rate.

WalletHub asked academics across the county to weigh in on the results.

“People think money is the key to happiness. It solves a lot of problems and can contribute to happiness by allowing you to experience things that bring joy beyond pure necessity,” said Lizette Ojeda, an associate psychology professor at Texas A&M University. “But how many billionaires have we heard of that still do not have a happy marriage or even life?”

Lorraine Besser, a professor of philosophy at historic Middlebury College in Vermont, said access to the great outdoors may be a contributor to happiness, noting “some exciting new research that shows that importance of being outside and in nature to a happy life.”

Whatever other problems California faces, access to the outdoors — from beaches to mountains, forests and deserts — is something hard to take away from the Golden State.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.