Americans Unhappiest They've Been in 50 Years
The COVID Response Tracking Study, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, finds that just 14% of American adults say they're very happy, down from 31% who said the same in 2018. That year, 23% said they'd often or sometimes felt isolated in recent weeks. Now, 50% say that.
The survey, conducted in late May, uses nearly a half-century of research from the General Social Survey, which has collected data on American attitudes and behaviors at least every other year since 1972. The number of Americans who reported being very happy has only dropped below 30% once since the survey began.
Most of the survey's interviews were completed before the death of George Floyd led to protests across the US, adding to the feelings of stress and loneliness Americans were already facing from the coronavirus pandemic — especially for black Americans.
The survey also found that the public is less optimistic about the standard of living improving for the next generation than it has been in the past 25 years. Only 42% of Americans believe that when their children reach their age, their standard of living will be better. In 2018, 57% said that. The previous low of 45% was in 1994, when the question was first asked.
About twice as many Americans report being lonely today as in 2018, and — not surprisingly, given the lockdowns that tried to stop the spread of the coronavirus — there's also been a drop in satisfaction with social activities and relationships.
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."