See 1787'S Recommendations Here
The 2019 World Happiness Report — a publication from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network that uses data from the Gallup World Poll — actually had an entire chapter called The Sad State of Happiness in the United States and the Role of Digital Media. That title alone is enough to drop our state of happiness a few points. From the report:
"The years since 2010 have not been good ones for happiness and well-being among Americans. Even as the United States economy improved after the end of the Great Recession in 2009, happiness among adults did not rebound to the higher levels of the 1990s, continuing a slow decline ongoing since at least 2000 in the General Social Survey.
Happiness and life satisfaction among United States adolescents, which increased between 1991 and 2011, suddenly declined after 2012. Thus, by 2016-17, both adults and adolescents were reporting significantly less happiness than they had in the 2000s. In addition, numerous indicators of low psychological well-being such as depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm increased sharply among adolescents since 2010, particularly among girls and young women. Depression and self-harm also increased over this time period among children and adolescents in the UK. Thus, those in iGen (born after 1995) are markedly lower in psychological well-being than Millennials (born 1980-1994) were at the same age.
This decline in happiness and mental health seems paradoxical. By most accounts, Americans should be happier now than ever. The violent crime rate is low, as is the unemployment rate. Income per capita has steadily grown over the last few decades. This is the Easterlin paradox: As the standard of living improves, so should happiness — but it has not.”
The 2020 World Happiness Report ranked the United States 17th in “Happiness,” a drop from 13th in just four years. In 2020, we fell to 19th.
Gallup’s own latest annual update on the world’s emotional state reenforces this. “Americans were more likely to be stressed and worried than much of the world. In fact, the 55 percent of Americans who experienced stress was one of the highest rates out of the 143 countries studied and it beat the global average (35 percent) by a full 20 percentage points. The U.S. even ties statistically with Greece, which has led the world on this measure every year since 2012.”
Over 40 million adults in America (19.1 percent) have an anxiety disorder: “Even as the economy roared, more Americans were stressed, angry and worried last year than they have been at most points during the past decade. Asked about their feelings the previous day, the majority of Americans (55 percent) in 2018 said they had experienced stress during a lot of the day, nearly half (45 percent) said they felt worried a lot and more than one in five (22 percent) said they felt anger a lot. Each of these figures matches or tops previous highs in the U.S.”
Researchers from the University of Nebraska reveal that “a large number of Americans believe their physical health has been harmed by their exposure to politics and even more report that politics has resulted in emotional costs and lost friendships.”
The American Psychological Association’s (APA) report Stress in America 2020 discovered that “nearly 2 in 3 adults (65 percent) say the amount of uncertainty in our nation causes them stress. Further, 3 in 5 (60 percent) say the number of issues America faces currently is overwhelming to them.”
The report continues, “More than 3 in 4 adults (77 percent) say the future of our nation is a significant source of stress, up significantly from 2019 when 66 percent of adults said the same. And more than 7 in 10 Americans (71 percent) say this is the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember. In 2019, only 56 percent of Americans shared this sentiment.”
Americans are obviously super stressed out, but way too many are also really, really sad. Too many Americans are silently suffering, strangled by depression and emotional trauma — without the support they so desperately need.
The APA also reports that, “61 percent of adults say they could have used more emotional support than they received over the prior twelve months, with more than 8 in 10 Gen Z adults saying the same.”
It should come as no surprise that the chaos we all endured in 2020 blew out every single statistic in regard to mental health. Domestic violence charges, suicides, and drug overdoses soared, as did alcohol sales. There was a 1,000 percent increase in calls to the federal government’s disaster distress hotline in April 2020 alone.
At the same time, many states had to reconfigure mental health care facilities — including psychiatric and detox/drug rehab facilities — to treat Covid cases, which only exacerbated the problem.
The University of Chicago found that “in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the public’s happiness is at a five-decade low.” The report went on to say that “42 percent of Americans believe that their children’s standard of living when they are older will be better than their own standard of living — a sharp decline from 57 percent in 2018 and the lowest level of optimism for the next generation since first measured in 1994.”
But even before lockdowns and quarantines, things in the mental health department were heading in the wrong direction.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reports that, before Covid-19, “nearly one in five of U.S. adults (47 million) reported having a mental illness in the past year, and over 11 million had a serious mental illness, which frequently results in functional impairment and limits life activities. In 2017-2018, more than 17 million adults and an additional three million adolescents had a major depressive episode in the past year.”
Also prior to the pandemic, the Pew Research Center found that “in 2017, 13 percent of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 (or 3.2 million) said they had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, up from 8 percent (or 2 million) in 2007. One-in-five teenage girls — or nearly 2.4 million — had experienced at least one major depressive episode.”
Plus, a report from the National College Health Association found that over 65 percent of college students reported they had “felt overwhelming anxiety” within the past year. Over 70 percent reported to have “felt very sad.” Over 45 percent said they had “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.”
According to a December 2021 report from the U.S. surgeon general Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, “Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people, with up to 1 in 5 children ages 3 to 17 in the U.S. with a reported mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder. In 2016, of the 7.7 million children with treatable mental health disorder, about half did not receive adequate treatment.”
That’s concerning enough, but the report also warns that “since the pandemic began, rates of psychological distress among young people, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, have increased. In early 2021, emergency department visits in the United States for suspected suicide attempts were 51 percent higher for adolescent girls and 4 percent higher for adolescent boys compared to the same time period in early 2019.”
Suicide rates were already at crisis level. After decreasing for almost two decades, the suicide rate among Americans aged 10 to 24 increased a whopping 56 percent in just ten years (2007 to 2017). It is still the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of over 48,000 Americans in 2018. That’s one death every 11 minutes. That same year, 10.7 million Americans seriously contemplated suicide but didn’t go through with it, while 1.4 million actually attempted it.
It should not be this way. Not in the United States of America. See 1787's recommendations here.
1. John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey D. Sachs. “World Happiness Report.” 2019
2. John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard, Jeffrey D. Sachs, and Jan Emmanuel De Neve. “World Happiness Report.” 2020
3. John F. Helliwell, Haifang Huang, Shun Wang and Max Norton. “World Happiness Report.” 2021
4. Nirmita Panchal, Rabah Kamal, Kendal Orgera, Cynthia Cox, Rachel Garfield, Liz Hamel, Cailey Muñana and Priya Chidambaram. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 21 Aug 2020
5. “Stress in the Time of COVID-19.” American Psychological Association. June 2020
6. “Stress in America 2020” American Psychological Association.
7. “National College Health Assessment.” American College Health Association. Spring 2019
8. Paige Winfield Cunningham. “The Health 202: Texts to Federal Government Mental Health Hotline Up roughly 1,000.” Washington Post.
9. “Historic Shift in American’s Happiness Amid Pandemic.” NORC, University of Chicago. June 2020
10. “America’s Health Rankings: 2018 Annual Report.” United Health Foundation.
11. “America's Health Rankings: 2019 Annual Report.” United Health Foundation.
12. United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Leading Causes of Death Reports, 1981 - 2017.” 1 Aug 2019
13. United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Preventing Suicide.” 16 Nov 2020
14. “Anxiety Disorders.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. 19 Jan 2020
15. “Global Emotions Report.” Gallup. 2019
16. Kevin B. Smith, Matthew V. Hibbing, and John R. Hibbing. “Friends, Relatives, Sanity, and Health: The Costs of Politics.” 25 Sept 2019