Blog Post

Who are the Happiest Americans?

A new study has found that only 12 percent of Americans consider themselves to be “very happy” - with the majority of these being older women who believe in God and have close personal ties with others.

The Daily Mail is reporting on a new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll which surveyed 1,019 Americans. They found that 56 percent of Americans considered themselves to be “pretty happy” and 30 percent said they were “not too happy.” Only 12 percent rated themselves as “very happy.”

Of this 12 percent, the majority were older women who believe in God, value marriage and community, and had close personal ties. Even those who were never married said marriage was important to them, compared to just 43 percent of respondents overall. Two-thirds said they were “very” or “moderately” religious compared to less than half of the adults overall.

Surprisingly, the happiest Americans aren’t those who value money and success, and it doesn’t make a difference if they are Democrat or Republican.

Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, said levels of happiness are linked to age.

“As we get older and realize that death is a real thing, rather than making us depressed, it makes us put a priority on well-being,” Waldinger told the Journal.

In his own study, which tracked the lives of 724 Boston men for 80 years beginning in1938 and then went on to study their Baby Boomer children, he found that relationships were much more important than money and success for making people feel happy.

The good news is that even those people who experienced unhappy childhoods were able to go on to achieve happiness in life.

“Your ways of being in the world are not set in stone,” the authors write. “It’s more like they are set in sand. Your childhood is not your fate. Your natural disposition is not your fate. The neighborhood you grew up in is not your fate. The research shows this clearly.”

Happiness isn’t a destination, it’s a process, they said. Happiness is “unlocked” through working through tough times with people who support us. Their study was filled with people who had difficult struggles in life but remained happy because they had strong relationships.

The authors write, “The good life is joyful . . . and challenging. Full of love but also pain. And it never strictly happens; instead, the good life unfolds through time. It is a process. It includes turmoil, calm, lightness, burdens, struggles, achievements, setbacks, leaps forward, and terrible falls. And of course, the good life always ends in death.”

As so many older women have discovered, as long as we have God and each other, our story will always have a happy ending.

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