In these days with worries over economic issues and job stability, one would expect Americans to be a lot less happy than they were last year at this time. As they say, money can’t buy happiness and maybe worries over money can”t change happiness. This year, once again, 35% of Americans are very happy according to The Harris Poll® Happiness Index.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,401 U.S. adults surveyed online between April 13 and 21, 2009 by Harris Interactive.
How happy are different groups?
Women are slightly happier than men are (36% vs. 34%) and among women, 38% of married women are very happy compared to 34% of single women.
The more education one has the happier one is as 33% of those who have a high school or less education are happy, 36% of both those with some college and college graduates are happy and 39% of those with a post graduate education are happy. Income, however, is not the same, as the happiest income group is the group making between $50,000 and $74,999 (39%) followed by those with incomes of $75,000 and up (36%).
When looking at happiness by age, just under one-third of those between 18 and 49 are very happy. But 37% of those aged 50-64 are very happy and almost half of those 65 and older are very happy (45%).
One of the only real changes in happiness from last year is among African Americans and Hispanics. Last year, 35% of African Americans were happy as were 32% of Hispanics. This year, those numbers go up to 41% and 36% respectively. Whites, however, are unchanged at 35% for both last year and this year. The number of Democrats who were happy also ticked up this year (from 33% to 36%) and the Republican number ticked down a little (39% to 37%). These changes probably have something to do with the election of President Obama.
Taking a look at the statements that make up the Happiness Index
The Happiness Index is comprised of nine statements and, depending on whether people agree or disagree with them, those responses are averaged together to create the index number. Some of the index statements are almost unchanged from last year. Nine in ten Americans still agree that their relationships with friends brings them happiness (91% this year, 93% last year) and they have positive relationships with family members (90% this year, 92% last year) while eight in ten agree that, at this time, they are generally happy with their lives (81% this year, 83% last year). Also unchanged is that two-thirds of Americans still say that they frequently worry about their financial situation (67% this year, 65% last year).
There are two statements that have shown some changes for the positive. Last year, almost three-quarters of Americans (73%) said they felt their voice is not heard in national decisions that affect them. This year that number drops to 67%. Just under half of Americans (49%) last year said they rarely worried about their health while this year over half (54%) now agree with that statement.
What makes people happy? It seems it isn’t just money or jobs or even economic stability. But rather it is having a close network of friends and positive relationships with family members. It is also having spiritual beliefs that are important to people. When all of these are examined in total, it is clear that Americans are not unhappy. They may be frustrated with certain aspects of their lives. They may watch the economic news and wish their 401(k)s or stock portfolios were doing better. They may worry that they or a loved one will lose their job, but the important parts that make up the rest of their lives seem to be going well and that most importantly, makes Americans happy.
The Harris Poll® #49, May 15, 2009
By Regina A. Corso, Director, The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive