A new survey out on Tuesday suggests people in the United States are more unhappy today than they have been in nearly 50 years.
The bold – yet unsurprising – conclusion comes from the COVID Response Tracking Study, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. It has found that just 14 percent of American adults say they are very happy, down from 31 percent who said the same in 2018. That year, 23 percent said they often or sometimes felt isolated in recent weeks. Now, 50 percent say that.
The survey, conducted in late May, draws on nearly half a century of research from the General Social Survey, which has collected data on American attitudes and behaviours at least every other year since 1972. No less than 29 percent of Americans have ever called themselves very happy in the survey.
Most of the new survey’s interviews were completed before George Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests and a global conversation about race and police brutality, adding to feelings of stress and loneliness Americans were already facing from the coronavirus outbreak – especially for Black Americans.
Among other findings from the new poll:
What is surprising, said Louise Hawkley, a senior research scientist with NORC at the University of Chicago, was that loneliness was not even more prevalent.
“It isn’t as high as it could be,” she said. “People have figured out a way to connect with others. It’s not satisfactory, but people are managing to some extent.”
The new poll found that there have not been significant changes in Americans’ assessment of their families’ finances since 2018 and that Americans’ satisfaction with their families’ ability to get along financially was as high as it has been over nearly 50 years.
The NORC survey of 2,279 adults was conducted between May 21-29 with funding from the National Science Foundation. It uses a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the US population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.