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A study by classified 61.4% of Instagram pictures taken at Penn as happy, ranking the University seventh nationally. Credit: Ana Glassman

Penn is the happiest college in Pennsylvania and the No. 7-happiest university in the United States, according to one recent study.

The study, conducted by, used Instagram and emotional recognition artificial intelligence to conduct its analysis. The artificial intelligence viewed thousands of images geotagged at different universities, classifying each picture with a "happiness score" ranging from zero to 100.

“With 59% of those aged 18 to 29 on Instagram, we figured the beloved photo app offered a unique glimpse into just how happy university students are,” the study’s press release said. 

The analysis classified 61.4% of Instagram pictures taken at Penn as happy, ranking the University No. 7 nationally, and the only Ivy League university within the top 20. The next-highest-ranked Ivy League university is Dartmouth College, which is ranked No. 34. The next-highest-ranked Pennsylvania university is Penn State, which is ranked No. 25.

The highest-ranked university overall in the United States is Texas Christian University, with more than three out of four faces registering as happy, followed by New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Iowa.

"While smiles can range from politely professional to the awkward kind reserved for open mic comedy nights, big grins caught on camera are usually a reliable indicator of a happy mood," the study's press release said.

Penn has faced some criticism in the past for its mental and physical health services. The Daily Pennsylvanian Editorial Board wrote a column in 2021 alleging issues with Penn’s Counseling and Psychological Services, and similar opinion columns were written in spring and fall 2022.

A 2015 CIS Senior Design Project from Penn Engineering used social media data to conclude that Penn had the highest depression ranking of the United States’ top 25 universities. In addition, a 2019 study placed Penn No. 1 on a list of schools with the most depressed student bodies. A 2018 survey of graduate students suggested that 43 percent were “so depressed it was difficult to function,” and 70 percent were “feeling overwhelming anxiety.”

Changes have since been made to the organizational structure of CAPS and Penn’s Student Health Services. The two organizations merged in 2022 under the banner of Student Health and Counseling, believing that it would enable greater cooperation between the two groups.

Executive Director of Student Health and Counseling William Adelman previously told the DP in February that he does not believe mental health is substantially worse at Penn than at comparable institutions.

“We internally use a health record for counseling that allows us to compare our students to those on college campuses everywhere else in the United States, [and we are] actually quite average,” Adelman said. “When we look at our data compared to other campuses, we don't actually seem to stand out.”

Benoit Dubé, Penn’s chief wellness officer, previously told the DP in February that he believes Penn is better at caring for students in need than other universities.

“What we know internally is that when we compare our ability to care for students with students in other colleges across the country we actually outperform other colleges,” Dubé said. “Our students are no more likely to come and seek care from us, but when they do that they actually get better faster."