Americans unhappiest in nearly 50 years

By TAMARA LUSH
Chicago univesity study show that Americans are the unhappiest they've been in almost 50 years

Spoiler alert: 2020 has been rough on the American psyche. Folks in the US are more unhappy today than they've been in nearly 50 years.

This bold - yet unsurprising - conclusion comes from the COVID Response Tracking Study, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. It finds that just 14 per cent of American adults say they're very happy, down from 31 per cent who said the same in 2018. That year, 23 per cent said they'd often or sometimes felt isolated in recent weeks. Now, 50 per cent say that.

The survey, conducted in late May, draws on nearly a half-century of research from the General Social Survey, which has collected data on American attitudes and behaviours at least every other year since 1972. No less than 29 per cent of Americans have ever called themselves very happy in that survey.

Most of the new survey's interviews were completed before the death of George Floyd touched off nationwide protests and a global conversation about race and police brutality, adding to the feelings of stress and loneliness Americans were already facing from the coronavirus outbreak - especially for black Americans.

Lexi Walker, a 47-year-old professional fiduciary who lives near Greenville, South Carolina, has felt anxious and depressed for long stretches of this year. She moved back to South Carolina late in 2019, then her cat died. Her father passed away in February. Just when she thought she'd get out and socialise in an attempt to heal from her grief, the pandemic hit.

"It's been one thing after another," Walker said. "This is very hard. The worst thing about this for me, after so much, I don't know what's going to happen."

Among other finding from the new poll about life in the pandemic:

* The public is less optimistic today about the standard of living improving for the next generation than it has been in the past 25 years.

* Compared with surveys conducted after President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 and after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Americans are less likely to report some types of emotional and psychological stress reactions following the COVID-19 outbreak.

* Fewer report smoking more than usual, crying or feeling dazed now than after those two previous tragedies, though more report having lost their temper or wanting to get drunk.

* About twice as many Americans report being lonely today as in 2018, and not surprisingly given the lockdowns that tried to contain the spread of the coronavirus, there's also been a drop in satisfaction with social activities and relationships.

* Compared with 2018, Americans also are about twice as likely to say they sometimes or often have felt a lack of companionship.