Just 14% of Americans are 'Very Happy' — the Lowest Since the Early '70s, According to New Poll

While Americans said they were largely unhappy, more than ever reported being satisfied with their financial situation

unhappy person
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The summer sun may finally be shining, but that seems to be the only bright thing for many Americans these days, as a new survey found people reporting record-low levels of unhappiness.

Just 14 percent of people surveyed by NORC at the University of Chicago said they were very happy — a 17 percentage-point drop from 2018, and the lowest number ever since the survey began in 1972. Prior to this year’s survey, the number had never dipped below 29 percent.

Despite this, more Americans than ever (80 percent) said they are satisfied with their family’s financial situation.

“These contrasting findings suggest that people are comparing their happiness to their own psychological well-being before the pandemic while assessing their finances in relation to the millions of fellow Americans who have lost jobs, wages, or investments following the outbreak,” researchers said.

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The poll, which was part of a COVID Response Tracking study, found that Americans’ unhappiness can exhibit itself in different ways.

Fewer Americans reported crying or feeling dazed than after either the Kennedy assassination in 1963 or the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, but more said they are losing their temper or feeling bored.

People are also feeling lonely — 50 percent of Americans said they at least sometimes felt isolated over the last few weeks, while only 23 percent of people said the same in 2018, according to the survey.

“It isn’t as high as it could be,” Louise Hawkley, senior research scientist with NORC at the University of Chicago, told the Associated Press. “People have figured out a way to connect with others. It’s not satisfactory, but people are managing to some extent.”

Exposure to someone with coronavirus also appears to have an effect: people living in counties that were harder hit by the virus were more likely to say they are unhappy than those in less-impacted counties, with an 11 percentage-point difference.

While financial happiness may be at an all-time high, optimism is not, as 42 percent of Americans said they believe that their children’s standard of living when they are older will be better than their own standard of living – a 15 percentage-point drop from 2018.

The poll surveyed 2,279 adults between May 21 and May 29, about two and a half months after coronavirus killed more than 100,000 Americans and forced shutdowns across the country. However, it was conducted largely before protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.

ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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