De­spite na­tional woes, Amer­i­cans find per­sonal hap­pi­ness

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Jen­nifer Harper

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.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Let the good times roll: Boaters en­joy a sunny day as they an­chor on a sand­bar in the In­ter­costal Water­way in Mi­ami Beach, Fla.

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