According to a poll, people in the U.S. are more unhappy today than they’ve been in nearly 50 years.


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This bold conclusion comes from the COVID Response Tracking Study, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago.

It found that just 14% of American adults say they’re very happy which is down from 31% who said the same in 2018. That year, 23% said they’d often or sometimes felt isolated in recent weeks.

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Now, 50% say that.

It’s A COVID-19 World

The survey, conducted in late May, draws on nearly a half-century of research from the General Social Survey. It has collected data on American attitudes and behaviors at least every other year since 1972.

However, no less than 29% of Americans have ever called themselves very happy in that survey.

The interviews were completed before the death of George Floyd touched off nationwide protests and a global conversation about race and police brutality.

Undoubtedly, the protests have enhanced the feelings of stress and loneliness Americans were already facing from the coronavirus outbreak.

Black Americans have experienced the brunt of this.

We Been Unhappy For 400 Years

People of color have been unhappy for centuries due to the systemic racism. After a hard-fought Civil War, the institution of chattel slavery was legally abolished.

The U.S. nominally attempted to make racial violence a thing of the past, however, the deputization of citizens against black citizens were still rampant.

This led to increased lynchings across the country with no arrests for the majority of the instances. The debate over systemic racism has renewed and gained steam across all cultures.

Trump’s Administration has repeatedly denied that discrimination against black Americans is embedded in the country.

Trump believes there are “injustices in society,” his press secretary said to TIME. In that interview, she brushed aside the notion that anti-blackness is intrinsic to U.S. law enforcement.

His National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien, said to TIME that racist police are just a “few bad apples; we need to root them out.”

At the core of the current protest movement is more than outrage over the latest instances of police brutality. Centuries of racist policy, both explicit and implicit, have left black Americans in the dust.

The U.S. never did a very good job extinguishing the fires from slavery. The U.S. education system has failed Black Americans. Substandard health care makes Black Americans more vulnerable to death and disease.

Lastly, the U.S. economy leaves millions without access to a living wage.

This is America

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.

Only 42% of Americans believe that when their children reach their age, their standard of living will be better. A solid 57% said that in 2018. Since the question was asked in 1994, the previous low was 45% in 1994.

Compared with surveys conducted after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 and after the Sept. 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 (45% vs. 27%) and felt left out (37% vs. 18%) in the past four weeks.

The new poll found that there haven’t been significant changes in Americans’ assessment of their families’ finances since 2018 and that Americans’ satisfaction with their families’ ability to get along financially was as high as it’s been over nearly five decades.

The survey of 2,279 adults was conducted May 21-29 with funding from the National Science Foundation. It uses a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.