In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the public’s happiness is at a five-decade low despite most Americans being satisfied with their financial situation, according to a new survey from NORC at the University of Chicago.
The study highlights how Americans’ outlook and emotional health compare to nearly 50 years of trends in public opinion data from the General Social Survey (GSS), an ongoing project which NORC has conducted since 1972. The historical context reveals unique impacts of the outbreak on public sentiment: An all-time low in people saying they are very happy (14%), combined with an all-time high in people saying they are satisfied with their family’s financial situation (80%).
These contrasting findings suggest that people are comparing their happiness to their own psychological well-being before the pandemic while assessing their finances in relation to the millions of fellow Americans who have lost jobs, wages, or investments following the outbreak.
The results also illustrate how Americans are reacting differently to the coronavirus pandemic compared to previous national tragedies. For example, fewer Americans report crying or feeling dazed than after either the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963, or the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001—but more report having lost their temper or feeling bored during the pandemic.