Despite national woes, Americans find personal happiness
Americans say they’re annoyed with politicians, vexed by the press and unsure about the war in Iraq, toxic Chinese imports and the stock market.
Yet we’re happy about our personal lives. Quite happy, in fact.
“Overall, Americans are definitely satisfied with the life they lead. Almost all (94 percent) say they are satisfied, with over half of U.S. adults (56 percent) saying they are ‘very’ satisfied,” said a Harris poll released Aug. 14.
The majority also say their lives have improved in the past five years, and almost two-thirds expect it to get even better by 2012. Such findings may seem incongruous in a year rife with partisan bickering. Indeed, the same poll found that only 19 percent of the respondents said the nation was “moving in the right direction.”
Yet the research could reflect national optimism — and maybe inner mettle as well.
“People not only can, but are separating out the negativity they feel in the country as a whole, and are still con-
tent with the their lives,” the poll said.
“Clearly, this survey shows people differentiate between the external world and their own selves in troubled times — and that’s a healthy thing,” Los Angeles-based psychologist Robert Butterworth said.
“They examine their personal circumstances and discover that reality is not so bleak. It indicates to me that Americans still tend to be very optimistic, and they carry on. We look to the future and don’t dwell on the past,” Mr. Butterworth added.
Some are happier than others, though. Those living in the South or West were happier than their East Coast or Midwest counterparts. A minority of easterners, for example — 42 percent — said their lives had improved since 2002, compared with 62 percent of Westerners.
Age presented a variable: Among the 31- to-42-year-olds, 71 percent said things had gotten bet- ter in the past five years, compared with 27 percent of those older than 62. Yet those same seniors showed the most contentment, with 69 percent saying they were not just satisfied, but “very” satisfied with life. That number was 48 percent among those 18 to 30.
Explaining the proverbial pursuit of happiness continues to fascinate many.
In the past year alone, a Princeton University study proclaimed that the link between money and happiness is “mostly illusory.” Research from both Cornell University and the University of Virginia revealed that “committed relationships” underscore personal contentment, and Carnegie Mellon University found that happier people tend to be healthier.
And on the global scale, America is fairly happy. A 2006 analysis by Britain’s University of Leicester placed the U.S. 23rd on a list of 178 countries ranked for their satisfaction with life according to wealth, health, housing, education and other factors. Denmark weighed in at No. 1 and Burundi in last place. Also among the contenders: Russia was ranked at 167, India at 125, Iran at 94, China at 82 and France at 62.
Let the good times roll: Boaters enjoy a sunny day as they anchor on a sandbar in the Intercostal Waterway in Miami Beach, Fla.