Annual Happiness Index Again Finds One-Third of Americans Very Happy

New York, N.Y. – June 22, 2011 – Although one of the simplest emotions, happiness can be hard to explain. The Harris Poll’s annual Happiness Index is therefore useful as it uses standard and timeless questions to calculate Americans’ overall happiness each year. As was the case last year, one third (33%) of Americans this year are very happy which is slightly down from the 35% who were very happy in both 2008 and 2009.

These are some of the findings of a Harris Poll® survey of 2,184 U.S. adults surveyed online between May 9 and 16, 2011.

The Harris Happiness Index is calculated by asking Americans if they agree or disagree with a list of statements, some positive and others negative. Those who say they strongly agree with all of the positive statements, such as my relationships with friends bring me happiness I rarely worry about my health and at this time, I’m generally happy with my life and strongly disagree with all of the negative ones, such as I frequently worry about my financial situation and I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy are those who are considered very happy.

Interestingly, this year we also asked a few questions that are slated to be asked throughout the U.K. later in the year and when we directly questioned overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?, fully 33% of Americans said they felt very happy, the same percentage calculated to be very happy by our Index.

Some other results of the poll include:

  • As has been the trend since 2009, men seem to be getting less happy, as 31% are very happy this year, down from 32% last year and 34% in 2009 and women appear to be slightly happier than they were last year (36% vs. 35%) and overall happier than men;
  • Looking by racial group, White Americans remain at 32% very happy which was the case last year, while African Americans show an increase in happiness this year, from 40% who were very happy last year to 44% this year. Hispanics are now less happy than they were last year (35% vs. 39%) yet they remain happier overall than White Americans, as they have since 2009;
  • While it’s not surprising that those in our highest income bracket, earning $100K or more per year, are the happiest group (37%), it is interesting that the least happy are those who earn just slightly less, between $75K and $99.9K per year (29% very happy);
  • Older Americans remain happier than those younger, as has been the case in all previous years-approximately two in five of those 50-64 years and 65 years and older are very happy (37% and 42%) compared to three in ten of all younger groups (between 29% and 31%); and
  • Those with more education are happier than those with less as 35% or more who have graduated from college are very happy, compared to only 32% who have never attended.

So what?

Although according to the Happiness Index only a third of Americans are very happy, data from the U.K.’s straight-forward questions show that eight in ten Americans are happy (81%), a number which includes those who are very happy (33%) and those who are somewhat happy (50%). What this shows is that with all the economic woes and all the other issues swirling around Americans today, people aren’t unhappy. And, if you look at the statements which make up the Happiness Index, friends and family matter. Two-thirds of U.S. adults strongly agree that they have positive relationships with their family (66%) and over half say their relationships with friends bring them happiness (59%). The greater the support network, the more joy one has in their lives.

 

TABLE 1

HAPPINESS INDEX

The Harris Interactive Happiness Index is calculated by taking an average (mean) of those who strongly agree with positive statements and strongly disagree with the negative ones

Base: All adults

2008

2009

2010

2011

All Adults

35

35

33

33

Gender

Men

33

34

32

31

Women

36

36

35

36

Race/Ethnicity

White

35

35

32

32

African-American

35

41

40

44

Hispanic

32

36

39

35

Income

$34,999 or less

32

31

28

33

$35,000 – $49,999

33

34

34

35

$50,000 – $74,999

36

39

34

30

$75,000-$99,999

38

36

38

29

$100,000+

37

Age

18-24

29

32

26

31

25-29

31

31

30

31

30-39

29

31

27

29

40-49

33

32

31

29

50-64

36

37

37

37

65+

47

45

44

42

Disabilities

People with disabilities

36

33

34

34

People without disabilities

35

36

33

34

Political Party

Republican

39

37

34

34

Democrat

33

36

34

36

Independent

34

33

33

32

Education

 

 

 

 

High school or less

35

33

31

32

Some college

35

36

35

33

College graduate

34

36

34

35

Post graduate

36

39

36

39

Note: indicates this was a net of $75K+ in those years

 

TABLE 2

HAPPINESS INDEX STATEMENTS

Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements.

Base: All adults

AGREE (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not sure

My relationships with friends bring me happiness

%

93

59

34

5

3

2

2

I have positive relationships with my family members

%

91

66

25

8

6

2

2

At this time, I’m generally happy with my life

%

80

40

41

18

13

5

2

I’m optimistic about the future

%

75

33

41

23

16

7

3

My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me

%

74

46

29

19

8

11

7

I feel my voice is not heard in national decisions that affect me

%

74

39

34

21

14

6

6

I frequently worry about my financial situation

%

68

35

33

30

21

9

1

I rarely worry about my health

%

50

15

35

49

33

16

1

My work is frustrating

%

39

14

25

53

24

28

8

I won’t get much benefit from the things that I do anytime soon

%

38

12

26

55

34

21

7

I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy

%

33

10

22

66

34

32

1

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

TABLE 3

HAPPINESS INDEX STATEMENTS – TREND

Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements.

Percent saying Strongly/Somewhat Agree

Base: All adults

2008

2009

2010

2011

%

%

%

%

My relationships with friends brings me happiness

93

91

91

93

I have positive relationships with my family members

92

90

92

91

At this time I’m generally happy with my life

83

81

80

80

My spiritual beliefs are a positive guiding force to me

77

74

73

74

I feel my voice is not heard in national decisions that affect me

73

67

72

74

I frequently worry about my financial situation

65

67

66

68

I rarely worry about my health

49

54

52

50

My work is frustrating

37

36

38

39

I rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes I enjoy

32

33

34

33

 

TABLE 4

FREQUENCY OF CONVERSATION TOPICS

How often in the past week have you spoken about the following topics?

Base: All adults

OFTEN (NET)

Very often

Somewhat often

NOT OFTEN (NET)

Not very often

Not at all

The weather

%

79

33

46

21

16

5

The economy

%

66

24

42

34

23

12

TV shows and/or movies

%

58

16

42

42

30

12

Politics

%

54

22

32

46

29

17

Education

%

48

17

31

52

29

23

Sports

%

46

18

27

54

26

29

Religion

%

37

13

24

63

32

31

Celebrity/Entertainment gossip

%

24

6

18

76

36

40

Fashion

%

16

4

13

84

30

54

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

TABLE 5

LIFE SATISFACTION

Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?

Base: All adults

Total

Gender

Generation

Male

Female

Echo Boomers (18-34)

Gen X (35-46)

Baby Boomers (47-65)

Matures (66+)

Satisfied (NET)

81

79

83

79

78

82

86

Very satisfied

25

25

24

23

18

25

37

Fairly satisfied

56

53

59

56

60

57

49

Not satisfied (NET)

19

21

17

21

22

18

14

Not very satisfied

14

15

13

16

17

12

12

Not at all satisfied

5

6

4

5

6

6

2

 

TABLE 6

FEELINGS OF HAPPINESS

Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?

Base: All adults

Total

Gender

Generation

Male

Female

Echo Boomers (18-34)

Gen X (35-46)

Baby Boomers (47-65)

Matures (66+)

Happy (NET)

83

80

86

78

82

85

88

Very happy

33

33

34

32

28

34

41

Somewhat happy

50

48

52

46

54

51

47

Not happy (NET)

17

20

14

22

18

15

12

Not very happy

13

15

11

17

14

11

9

Not at all happy

4

4

3

5

4

3

2

 

TABLE 7

FEELINGS OF ANXIOUSNESS

Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

Base: All adults

Total

Gender

Generation

Male

Female

Echo Boomers (18-34)

Gen X (35-46)

Baby Boomers (47-65)

Matures (66+)

Anxious (NET)

35

34

36

49

35

30

21

Very anxious

9

10

8

18

8

5

3

Somewhat anxious

26

24

28

31

27

25

19

Not anxious (NET)

65

66

64

51

65

70

79

Not very anxious

39

39

39

36

38

42

40

Not at all anxious

26

27

25

15

27

28

39

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 9 and 16, 2011 among 2,184 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Where appropriate, these data were also weighted to reflect the composition of the adult online population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #75, June 22, 2011

By Samantha Braverman, Sr. Project Researcher

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