According to a new Fox News poll, only about half (53%) of Americans said they were either “very happy” or “happy.” In 2001, that number of happy Americans was closer to 70%. Over the last decade, the U.S. rate of anti-depressant use has soared to 400%.
Has our country just gone soft? Or is there something to this trend?
A story we found says there are five key reasons to account for America’s growing unhappiness. The good news is that small-town life -- like our's here in Dorchester -- can counteract America’s expanding frown.
According to social scientists, here are the reasons behind America’s modern malaise:
We are zoning out with gadgets and electronics
The overuse of computers, TVs and hand-held devices help us escape our emotions, experts say. They also hinder our ability to grow intellectually, develop real-life relationships, and reconcile our emotions. But in a small town, we are more likely to interact with our neighbors, take part in community events, and get outside and work in the physical world. We’re more likely to get in touch with ourselves, making us much more content that the average big city bear.
We are inundated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous
Thanks to 24/7 celebrity news, reality TV, and social network sites like Facebook, Americans are constantly exposed to the unrealistic life of excess – including the insane lifestyles of billionaires. Moreover, many Americans see the consumption habits of their friends and neighbors who feel the need to upload pictures of their latest purchases. Fortunately, many people in small towns are less likely to see it necessary to keep up with the Jones'. Small town folks tend to be a more content lot; as a result, we're generally happier than those whose lives are centered around consumption.
We aren’t taking much time off
Not only are we working hard at our jobs, but our kids’ activities are literally driving us batty. We know one particular couple in Lincoln who has had kid activities every night since July. In a small town, life is a little less hectic and a little more predictable. Sure, that downtime can drive some people crazy -- but it beats the lack of leisure time, which is driving many more to depression.
Many Americans are very unhealthy
One in three Americans is now overweight or obese. For U.S. women, the news is worse: one in two are overweight or obese. In small towns, the obesity rate is too high, just as it is across the rest of the country. But small town residents tend to be more physically active, thanks to gardens, yard work and home care, as well as more walking on average. We also eat out less, which is a positive. Even more important, rural Americans tend to have a spiritual life.
Half of Americans are really stressed
A study by NPR finds nearly half of Americans said they suffered a “major stressful event” in the past year. While divorce, death, job loss and similar events occur everywhere, a major part of this stress equation is personal financial debt. The fact is, in small town America, we tend to live within our means, unlike many of our city cousins. In small towns, we also tend to get more sleep and more exercise in a quieter, cleaner and calmer environment, which also helps reduce our stress levels. And most important, things aren't overly complicated in a small town (unless you make them that way).
We have it pretty good in Dorchester when it comes to the factors that make us happy. As time goes on, we’re guessing more people will take notice – especially when they’re finally sick and tired of the things making them so darn unhappy.