Americans today enjoy a growing economy, low unemployment and an ever-improving standard of living – but we aren’t getting any happier.
The 2018 World Happiness Report and Gallup’s Well-Being Index reveal American happiness at its lowest level since 2006, with every single state in the union in decline since 2009. Americans report feeling more depression, more day-to-day worry, less “positive energy” from family and friends, and less satisfaction with their work and personal lives than they did a year ago. America is bummed out.
It’s tempting to assume this drop-off is another symptom of today’s political, racial and class tension, but falling happiness isn’t reserved for the “forgotten class” or a sign that Republicans have succeeded in their quest to “own the libs” into permanent depression.1 Surprisingly, more affluent and educated states have experienced a steeper decline in happiness than states with lower median incomes or less educational achievement. The deterioration of our national mood didn’t begin with the last election cycle either; Gallup found that well-being is higher in states that disapprove of the President.
Political, racial and economic divides contribute to the happiness equation, but none of these divides correlate strongly with the recent slump. Something else is going on here.
Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist and co-author of the World Happiness Report, argues that the US “offers a vivid portrait of a country that is looking for happiness in all the wrong places.”
The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental American right. It’s time we learn to look in the right direction.