Friday, November 24, 2017
Opinion

Column: Gallup study confirms that 2017 really is worse than 2016

RECOMMENDED READING


Itís not just your imagination: Life in America really has become more unpleasant this year.

According to a new Gallup report, American well-being fell by a "statistically significant and meaningfully large" amount from 2016 to 2017. The drops were largest among women, minorities, Democrats and low-income Americans.

"Well-being" in this case is based on survey responses to a variety of questions organized into five main categories: physical health, financial health, social support, community involvement, and a sense of purpose. It includes questions like: Are you worried about money? Do you like what you do? Do you exercise frequently? Are your friends and family a positive influence on your life?

The answers to all of these questions are mashed into a statistical index ranging from 0 to 100, with 100 representing maximum well-being. Across more than 100,000 survey interviews, that index value had been slowly creeping upward in recent years, from an average of 61.6 in 2014 to 62.1 in 2016.

This year it fell to 61.5, which Gallup says is the biggest year-over-year drop since 2008.

In absolute terms, that number hasnít changed much ó overall well-being is still just a little bit more than 60 percent of what its theoretical maximum would be under Gallupís methodology. But because of the huge numbers of people involved in this particular survey ó more than 100,000 each year ó even small changes in the well-being score are statistically significant, indicative of some meaningful change in the average Americanís life.

The numbers suggest that change is linked to our social and emotional health, as well as our sense of purpose. For instance, in 2017, over 41 percent of Americans report having little interest or pleasure in doing things some days each week, up from less than 34 percent last year. The percent saying they like what they do each day has fallen by several points, while people saying they have "significant" daily worries is up.

"All of these metrics were highly stable from 2014 through 2016," Gallup writes, "and in each case the negative movement so far in 2017 is highly statistically significant."

Thereís good evidence that at least some of this is rooted in our current political climate, as well as in partisan preferences. The year-over-year drop in well-being among Democrats (0.9 points), for instance, is more than four times larger than the drop among Republicans (0.2 points).

Drops in well-being were particularly large among women, blacks and Hispanics, three groups with especially low opinions of the president. Gallup has also found that daily worry rose significantly following the election of President Donald Trump.

Other Gallup data has found that overall satisfaction in the way things are going in the U.S. has fallen by seven points since last year. "One reason that satisfaction may be lower is that Americans regard the government as the most important problem facing the country ó and displeasure with Trump is one of the major reasons why," the report concluded.

Americansí relatively gloomy outlook in 2017 stands in sharp contrast to current economic data, which generally paints a rosy picture: falling unemployment, record stock market gains and overall economic confidence. But in the end, it appears that money really canít buy national happiness.

Roughly a year ago it became fashionable to lament that 2016 was shaping up to be the "worst year ever." If nothing else, 2017 has taught us that things can always get worse.

And as Homer Simpson might say, as badly as itís turning out, 2017 may not be the worst year of our lives either ó just the worst year of our lives so far.

Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data for the Washington Post. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.
© 2017 Washington Post

Comments

Another voice: Wall isnít a lifesaver, itís a boondoggle

The first stage of President Donald Trumpís controversial border wall project ended last week, while the prospects for any more construction ó and even what type of wall ó remain uncertain.A Border Patrol agent was killed and his partner seriously wo...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17

Another voice: Time for Republicans to denounce this tax nonsense

Mick Mulvaney, the phony deficit hawk President Donald Trump tapped to oversee the nationís budget, all but admitted on Sunday that the GOP tax plan currently before the Senate is built on fiction. Senators from whom the public should expect more ó s...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nationís highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: A time of reckoning on sexual misconduct

Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
Published: 11/20/17

Another voice: Trump does the right thing for elephants; he shouldnít back down now

There is bad timing, and then there is this. Last week, an apparent military coup placed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in custody, ushering in a new period of political uncertainty. A few days later, the Trump administration announced that Zimba...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

Editorial: Fighting the opioid crisis on many fronts

From birth to death, opioid addiction is ravaging the lives of thousands of Floridians. Drugmakers, doctors, state lawmakers and insurance companies all have a role to play in slowing the epidemic. Lately some more responsible answers, including mill...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/21/17

Editorial: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "Iím pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: Itís time to renew communityís commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

Editorial: A time for real thanksgiving

By now the guest list if not the table is all set, and the house will be warmed with the noise of loved ones and the smell of that dish with cream of mushroom soup. Tucked between the sugar rush of Halloween and the sparkle of Christmas, Thanksgiving...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17