Survey: Americans reach a record level of unhappiness

If you’re feeling gloomy at work, don’t think that it’s just you. According to the annual Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, Americans are currently more unhappy than they have been in a decade.

In interviews with 160,498 U.S. adults, participants were asked about their sense of purpose, social relationships, finances, and relationships to their community and physical health. Calculating scores across these five elements, researchers found that the national well-being index dropped from 62.1 in 2016 to 61.5 in 2017, the largest decline in the index’s 10-year history.

More Americans feeling worried and purposeless in 2017

If you want to move to a state full of happy and fulfilled people, consider South Dakota, Vermont, and Hawaii — they were the top-ranked states in well-being scores. But it’s all too easy to live in a state with an unhappy bunch of citizens.

In fact, 21 states, primarily in the West and the South — including Arizona, Washington, California, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida — showed a marked decline in well-being. Fewer Americans in these states said they liked what they did each day. More Americans in these states said they worried each day. They showed an increase in clinical diagnoses of depression with more people reporting that they had “little interest or pleasure in doing things.” They were less likely to say they had a leader in their lives who made them “enthusiastic about the future” and they were less likely to report reaching their goals.

Researchers want their findings to be a call to action for employees everywhere to invest in mental health and well-being resources. “The stark difference in our country’s well-being today versus just a year ago underscores the need to understand, assess and nurture the health of our populations comprehensively and continuously,” Sharecare CEO and founder Jeff Arnold said.

What’s causing the unhappiness?

What caused the sharp decline in well-being in the last year? For Americans, 2017 was the year Donald Trump was elected to be the 45th U.S. president, and researchers believe this polarizing event played a role in participants’ declining social, emotional and psychological health.

“I think everyone would agree, whether you’re a Trump supporter or not, that 2017 was a psychologically tumultuous year for America,” Dan Witters, the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index research director, said. “Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, there’s an increased probability you’ll be in relationships that are more contentious.

“There’s going to be more arguing and more negativity than there used to be around the dinner table. That’s going to hold true regardless of whether you’re pro- or anti-Trump. But that swirling animosity, mixing it up at the dinner table, that’s real,” Witters added.