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Americans Largely Satisfied With Their Personal Life?

A few take aways:

  • People are generally happy, but less happy than before the pandemic.

  • Making more money does improve your satisfaction level (at least to the point you make $100,000/yr).

  • Satisfaction levels haven't moved that much since 1979.

The elephant in the room they didn't look at? Last week a study was released showing that 30 of teen girls had contemplated suicide and 57 percent were seriously depressed. The Gallup study overlooks a potential mental health crisis in young adults?



Americans Largely Satisfied With Their Personal Life

BY MEGAN BRENAN, GALLUP


Steady 83% satisfied with the way their personal life is going

Majorities satisfied with finances, lifestyle, opportunities, social life

Satisfaction varies by income, age, marital status, education level


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The 83% of Americans who are at least somewhat satisfied with their personal life matches the historical average since 1979, and broad majorities of U.S. adults likewise report they are satisfied with nine specific life aspects.


Between 81% and 90% of U.S. adults are either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their family life, current housing, education, job, community and personal health, while 71% to 77% express the same degree of satisfaction with the amount of leisure time they have, their standard of living and their household income.




Personal Satisfaction Matches Average Since 1979

Americans’ satisfaction with their overall personal life has ranged from 73% to 90% in Gallup’s periodic measures since 1979. The record high was measured in 2020, two months before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the U.S. It was short-lived, however, as the reading fell to 82% in 2021. Last year, it edged up to 85%.


The low point in personal satisfaction came in the summer of 1979 during the energy crisis. Personal satisfaction was also below 80% during challenging economic times in the early 1980s, early 1990s and the years after the Great Recession.




Gallup has asked a follow-up question in most years since 2001 about the degree to which Americans are satisfied with their personal life. In a Jan. 2-22 Gallup survey, 50% of U.S. adults say they are very satisfied, in line with the previous two years’ 51% readings but well below the 65% high from 2020. The only times Gallup found a smaller share of Americans very satisfied with their life were in December 2008, during the global economic crisis, and in 2011, as the country was still recovering from the 2007-2009 recession.




Satisfaction Highest for Family Life, Housing; Lowest for Household Income

Gallup also measures U.S. adults’ degrees of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the nine specific life aspects. Majorities of Americans are very satisfied with four of the elements, including their family life (66%), current housing (63%), education (53%) and community as a place to live (51%). In addition, a majority of employed Americans are very satisfied with their work (54%).


Fewer express such high satisfaction with the remaining four life elements -- the amount of leisure time they have (43%), their personal health (41%), their standard of living (37%) and their household income (30%). However, taking the percentages who are “somewhat satisfied” into account, no fewer than 71% of Americans are satisfied with any of these aspects.




Americans’ levels of high satisfaction are lower than they were in the 2019 poll on all but two of the life aspects -- housing and amount of leisure time, for which the readings differ by just one percentage point. The aspects with the greatest declines in the percentage of U.S. adults saying they are very satisfied are personal health (-13 points), family life (-10), community as a place to live (-10), standard of living (-9) and household income (-6). Among U.S. employees, high satisfaction with their job has declined by eight points.




Satisfaction with many of the life aspects was also measured in a 1995 survey, but the results are not comparable because of differences in the content of the two surveys.


Income, Age, Marital Status, Education Affect Life Satisfaction

Income has more of an effect than any other major demographic factor on Americans’ satisfaction with their personal life and with most specific life aspects. Those with a higher household income are more likely than lower-income adults to say they are very satisfied with all measures except for the amount of leisure time they have. The biggest differences between these two groups’ satisfaction levels are seen in household income, standard of living and housing.




Americans’ satisfaction with their personal life overall and with the specific aspects also differs by other demographic factors, including age, marital status and college education.


By age:


Older adults are generally more satisfied than middle-aged and younger adults with their personal life and most aspects of it.

Majorities of Americans aged 55 and older are very satisfied with their personal life in general as well as six of the nine specific areas. Meanwhile, family life is the only area that garners majority-level satisfaction from U.S. adults aged 18 to 34. Middle-aged adults’ satisfaction levels are closer to young adults on several measures (including housing, work, community, standard of living and income), but they are closer to older adults’ levels on family life, education and overall personal life.

About four in 10 Americans in all three age groups are very satisfied with their personal health.

By marital status:


With the exception of their personal health, married adults are significantly more satisfied than unmarried adults across all dimensions measured.

Majorities of married adults are very satisfied with their overall personal life, education, family life, community, housing and job. Slim majorities of unmarried adults are very satisfied with just two aspects -- family life and housing.

By education level:


College graduates are slightly more likely than those without a college degree to say they are very satisfied with their personal life (54% vs. 48%, respectively).

College graduates are also more satisfied than nongraduates with their education (by 33 points), standard of living (17 points), housing (16 points), income (12 points), community (nine points) and health (eight points).

There is little to no difference between the two groups in satisfaction with their job, amount of leisure time or family life.

Bottom Line

Even as the American public is largely dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S., they are broadly satisfied with the direction their personal life is taking. Still, they are now slightly less satisfied with their overall personal life than they were in the few years before the COVID-19 pandemic. While satisfaction in the immediate pre-pandemic years was high for the trend, current attitudes match the historical average.


Americans’ latest depressed satisfaction with their household income and standard of living likely reflects the toll inflation has taken over the past year. The pandemic also may have affected people’s physical or mental health, their job and their family life.



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