Americans at unhappiest level in almost 50 years, research finds

Americans are at their unhappiest level in almost 50 years, according to new research, as the country continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.  

The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, using General Social Survey data, discovered that only 14 percent of American adults reported being very happy in 2020. 

The results represent an all-time low in the study, which has been conducted at least every other year since 1972. The previous low was in 2010, when 29 percent of Americans declared themselves very happy.

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2018, the last time the survey was taken, 31 percent reported being very happy.

The percentage of respondents who felt isolated also jumped from 23 percent in 2018 to 50 percent in 2020, as millions of Americans were required in recent months to stay at home during the pandemic and many industries shut down to in-person visitors. 

The study was conducted in late May, with most interviews occurring before George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody sparked protests across the country calling for police reform. The Associated Press noted these incidents likely added to stress and loneliness in the U.S., especially for black Americans. 

The percentage of respondents who reported being lonely doubled from two years ago, with 45 percent of respondents saying they have felt a lack of companionship and 37 percent reporting they have felt left out. In 2018, 27 percent of respondents said they felt a lack of companionship, and 18 percent said they felt left out. 

Respondents to the 2020 survey also reported being less optimistic that the standard of living would improve for the next generation. 

Roughly 4 in 10 — 42 percent — said they think their children's standard of living will be better when the children reach their age, while 57 percent agreed with that statement in 2018.

ADVERTISEMENT

The 2020 percentage is the lowest since 1994, when 45 percent expected their children to have a better standard of living.

But the poll found there has not been significant changes in people’s stratification with their family’s financial situation since 2018, despite the economic downturn caused the pandemic.

More than 2,279 adults were contacted between May 21 and 29 for the survey. The findings have a margin of error 2.9 percentage points.