March 28, 2024

America the Miserable

A new survey shows that Americans are not as happy as they used to be, and there are important reasons for that.

America has achieved yet another dubious distinction. However, among the numerous ways we have fallen from grace in the last few years, evidenced by the countless shocking news stories that hit our social media feeds each day, the revelation that we are no longer one of the happiest countries in the world is probably not terribly surprising.

According to this year’s data from the World Happiness Report, which has been collecting happiness and well-being information on a global scale for over a decade, for the first time, the U.S. has fallen from its consistently held place among the top 20 happiest countries in the world to now trailing Kuwait.

As this country has been met with catastrophe at every turn, with the economy and future as uncertain as ever, it’s not surprising that many people’s outlook on life took a downward turn in response. However, these reports indicate a notable correlation between your age and the perspective you carry, even when times are tough.

As NBC News points out, “The age disparity is stark: The U.S. ranks in the top 10 for those over 60, but for those under 30, it ranks 62nd, pulling down the overall score.”

As to the unhappiness of younger Americans, there are several ideas to explore.

It is indisputable that an increase in the use of technology plays a large role in the deterioration of mental health. “Younger people began reporting consistently decreased levels of happiness beginning in 2012, and their satisfaction has declined ever since,” writes National Review’s Noah Rothman, citing a 2019 study. “That coincides with an increase in young people telling pollsters that they are spending inordinate amounts of their day interacting with screens.”

The use of technology and personal devices may not be the only culprits, though, as many Gen Z social media users will attest. Scrolling through videos on TikTok depicts the concerning way that these young adults use their online platforms, and it seems like their audiences have become a legitimate substitute for real relationships, including family.

Interestingly, we as a society have become more keenly aware of the challenges that come from having a negative outlook. We also know of a number of unique diagnoses that might be used to label the illness specific to your brain. It would seem that awareness of a problem would lead to greater rates of fixing what’s wrong and getting more people on an upward path.

But perhaps it’s the diagnosis and the “cures” that are actually causing the crisis.

Today’s American youth are being told to love themselves, focus on themselves, and constantly engage in self-care. They are even encouraged to abandon a job, a relationship, a skill or hobby, or anything else of meaning if that thing presents even the slightest threat to their peace or risks destabilizing their emotions in the smallest way. They are their own top priority, and the concept of constantly turning inward is portrayed as the way to fix the problem.

This means they are leaving behind the things that would likely improve their view on life — the very things that are showing an improved perspective in people in countries who are taking the opposite approach. Business Insider points to several regions of the world whose citizens are experiencing greater joy and fulfillment — which has coincided with a solid real-life social support network and development of their generosity toward others.

Thankfully, despite living in a world where daily disasters are beyond our ability to address, this happiness crisis is within our power to correct.

There is no shortage of human beings with whom to develop in-person friendships, and there is no limit to the ways that you can engage with people, pursue hobbies, or form communities. There are ample opportunities to give your time, talents, and resources to others. That will go a long way to making everyone happier.

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