American Happiness at All-Time Low

American Happiness at All-Time Low

In honor of America’s 240th birthday, TIME Magazine unveiled the latest results of The Harris Poll® Happiness Index, which uses a series of questions to calculate Americans’ overall happiness and found that fewer than 1 in 3 Americans (31%) are very happy this year, down from just over 1 in 3 (34%) in 2015.

At the same time, however, about 8 in 10 U.S. adults (81%) say they are generally happy with their life right now, suggesting that people may overstate how happy they really are.

Women continue to be happier than men

Harris Poll has been measuring Americans’ happiness since 2008 using an index that is calculated by taking an average of those who strongly agree with certain positive statements and strongly disagree with certain negative statements that are asked along an agree/disagree scale.

In its inaugural year, the Happiness Index stood at 35 (out of a possible 100). Eight years later, Happiness has gradually slipped to 31, but what hasn’t changed is the gender breakdown – more women are happier than men:

2008

2009

2010

2011

2013

2015

2016

All Adults

35

35

33

33

33

34

31

Gender

     Men

33

34

32

31

32

33

29

     Women

36

36

35

36

35

36

33

Most Americans still optimistic about the future

When looking closer at the individual statements that comprise the Happiness Index, it would appear that most Americans are quite happy now and feel positively about the future:

  • About 8 in 10 (81%) strongly or somewhat agree that they are generally happy with their life at this time; and,
  • More than 7 in 10 (72%) agree that they are optimistic about the future.

In both cases, however, a greater proportion of Americans only somewhat (as opposed to strongly) agree, illustrating the rationale behind how the Happiness Index is calculated – and that it represents greater cheerfulness than merely mild contentment.

General happiness has fluctuated between the low 80s (83% high in 2008) and upper 70s (77% low in 2013), while future optimism has ranged between nearly 80% (79% high in 2009) and the upper 60s (67% low in 2013):

% Strongly or Somewhat Agree (NET)

2008

2009

2010

2011

2013

2015

2016

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

I have positive relationships with my family members

92

90

92

91

90

89

88

My relationships with friends bring me happiness

93

91

91

93

90

90

87

At this time I’m generally happy with my life

83

81

80

80

77

82

81

I feel my voice is not heard in national decisions that affect me

73

67

72

74

75

72

73

I’m optimistic about the future*

76

79

73

75

67

75

72

My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me

77

74

73

74

73

71

66

I frequently worry about my financial situation

65

67

66

68

65

67

62

I rarely worry about my health

49

54

52

50

52

51

48

I won’t get much benefit from the things that I do anytime soon*

32

38

36

38

42

36

41

My work is frustrating

37

36

38

39

34

33

34

I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy

32

33

34

33

36

31

33

*This statement is not included in the calculation of the Happiness Index.

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit our website, TheHarrisPoll.com.

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Methodology
This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between May 31 and June 2, 2016 among 2,019 adults aged 18+. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.  Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #50, July 8, 2016
By Kathy Steinberg, Director, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, please visit our new website, TheHarrisPoll.com.

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Shayne Heffernan Funds Manager at HEFFX holds a Ph.D. in Economics and brings with him over 25 years of trading experience in Asia and hands on experience in Venture Capital, he has been involved in several start ups that have seen market capitalization over $500m and 1 that reach a peak market cap of $15b. He has managed and overseen start ups in Mining, Shipping, Technology and Financial Services.

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