Merriweather District, Downtown Columbia. Image by JP2 Architects.

A new report by WalletHub, a personal finance website, has named Columbia, Md. the second happiest city in the United States.

The top five happiest cities – with the exception of Columbia – are in California, per the report. Fremont, CA came in first place, followed by San Francisco (3), San Jose (4), and Irvine (5). 

To compile 2022’s Happiest Cities in America, WalletHub analyzed 182 of the largest cities in the country across three dimensions: emotional and physical well-being; income and employment; and community and environment.

Columbia ranked 3rd in emotional and physical wellbeing, 161st in income and employment, and 5th in community and environment. 

Map of 2022’s Happiest Cities in America. Source: WalletHub

WalletHub’s list comes at a time when many people are facing challenges that erode happiness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a psychological toll, creating new mental health challenges for many people and exacerbating existing issues for those who struggled before the pandemic. 

During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 U.S. adults have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, up from 1 in 10 who reported those symptoms in 2019, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

To assess the happiest cities, WalletHub analyzed factors such as number of work hours, depression rates, income growth, and rates of separation and divorce. 

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball weighed in on Columbia’s ranking in a statement Wednesday.

“This recognition speaks to our concerted efforts to improve the quality of life for all our residents here in Howard County,” Ball said.

“People want to live, work, play, and grow here because of our connected green spaces, quality schools, robust businesses, and the strong sense of community,” he said, “Howard County’s focus on building a diverse and inclusive community makes it a great place to live and thrive.”