Unhappier and unhappier

According to data produced by the General Social Survey Americans are getting more miserable.  On a scale between 1 and 3, where 1 represents “not too happy” and 3 means “very happy”,  Americans on average give themselves 2.18.  In 1993 the figure peaked at 2.26.  The downward trend has been confirmed in the latest World Happiness Report, the overall life satisfaction of Americans falling 6% between 2007 and 2018.  Reasons given for the fall include:

  •  Social media:  young people, alone on their phones or computers, watching others who seem  so good looking, apparently successful, earning good money, with plenty of friends.
  • The opioid epidemic
  • The poor state of health of very many Americans, linked with soaring health costs and the sheer frustration of dealing with health insurance companies, whose objective in life seems to be not to pay out.
  • The gig economy and chronic economic insecurity.
  • Wretched housing and lack of local amenities experienced by black people, plus the insecurity caused by guns.
  • The general feeling of helplessness in a society which is dominated by a very rich 1%, the perceived unfairness and the corruption caused by too much money being flung at politicians in return for favours.
  • The catch-22 situation that young people find themselves in – they are told they have to go college or university to get a good job, but in the process acquire huge student debts that often prevent them saving enough to buy their own houses.

In the Republican desperation to reduce taxes and benefits, aimed at the poor, to jthe benefit of their election donors we have got it all wrong.  Society should not be so skewed and so unfair.  We will surely pay for it.


One Comment

  1. I wonder whether the fall of the Berlin Wall and more general positive feelings since end of the cold-war contributed to the peak 1993 report?

    I’m a bit critical of this survey’s approach and use of the limited 1-3 scale. I think a scale of 5 is better for such purposes; 1 really unhappy, 2 unhappy 3 neutral/so-so, 4 happy, 5 very happy.

    Other factors like mood, relationships, seasonality, work, etc., I think muddy the waters and make it difficult to assess the overall general happiness of some surveyed population.

    I agree, there’s a lot of dirty politics, drug-addicted society, helplessness, and corruption aren’t helpful. For example, in Canada, the Liberal Party accepted donations from SNC Lavalin https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/snc-lavalin-liberal-donors-list-canada-elections-1.5114537

    However, I’m an optimist and feel there’s so much good that goes unnoticed. I feel people have more reasons to be generally happier, but the media bombards people with negativity and fear-mongering. I suspect, it has become more pronounced in recent times. What happened to going outdoors for long walks and having deeply profound conversations?

    I agree with Epicurus that happiness is easily within our reach. The problem is too many people delay and defer their happiness as though it’s someone else’s responsibility. Instead of being delivered happiness, they receive fear on a silver platter, brought by an ever bigger and wider grin.

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