Common Dreams Labor Mental Health

More Americans Than Ever Rate Themselves as ‘Suffering’ in New Survey

A growing share of Americans also report high levels of daily stress and worry, according to Gallup.
2010 street art by Banksy in Boston, Mass. [Chris Devers / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

By Julia Conley | Common Dreams

Facing rising costs of goods and housing, an ongoing pandemic and the threat of other public health crises, and high levels of stress, Americans are more likely than ever to rate themselves as “suffering” according to a new survey released Monday by Gallup.

Since 2008, the polling firm has measured Americans’ quality of life by asking them to rate their lives on a scale of 0 to 10. This month, for the first time since Gallup began asking the question, more than 5% of respondents—5.6%, to be exact—gave their lives and circumstances a rating of 4 or lower.

The percentage represents about 14 million American adults.

The poll was taken between July 26 and August 2, with 3,649 adults surveyed.

Compared with one year ago, the number of people reporting that they are “suffering” in their everyday lives doubled.

Using the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, Gallup classifies respondents who rate their lives as 5 or 6 as “struggling,” and those who say they’re a 7 or above as “thriving.”

Since November 2021, when the Omicron variant began spreading rapidly across the U.S., the percentage of people who describe themselves as thriving has dropped from 59% to just 51.2%.

“Dovetailing with economic headwinds is a rising discontentment with U.S. moral values, which has reached a record high.”

Low numbers of Americans have rated themselves as thriving at other points, including in November 2008 during the Great Recession and in April 2020 as unemployment skyrocketed amid the economic shutdown and the spread of Covid-19 across the country.

The share of people classified as suffering has grown gradually since the beginning of the pandemic, as the country has gone through the racial justice uprising of 2020, a continuing crisis of gun violence, and attacks on reproductive freedom across the U.S. as well as inflation and other crises related to the economy.

Inflation hit a new 40-year high in June, at 9.1%, and was at 8.5% in July. In June, Gallup reported that rising gas prices were contributing to financial hardship for two-thirds of Americans.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, nearly 100 million people in the U.S. this year have been forced to cut back on essentials including meals, utilities, and driving in order to afford healthcare costs, and 26% delayed or avoided medical care due to cost.

While corporations and the Federal Reserve have claimed that rising compensation for workers is behind inflation and soaring prices, labor leaders and progressive economists argue skyrocketing pay for already-wealthy corporate executives has worsened inequality while also driving inflation.

Gallup also surveyed people about their stress and worry levels last month, finding that 48% of Americans said they were experiencing daily stress in July compared with 43% in July 2021.

Forty-two percent reported feeling worried on a daily basis, compared with 38% a year ago.

The survey was released weeks after Data for Progress published a poll showing two-thirds of people who rent their homes are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about being able to afford their housing costs.

Gallup noted that respondents’ stress levels could correlate to realities of American life that are not directly related to the economy.

“Dovetailing with economic headwinds is a rising discontentment with U.S. moral values, which has reached a record high,” reported the firm.

Fifty percent of Americans told Gallup in June that they were dissatisfied with moral values in the U.S., with racism and discrimination named as a top concern for 8% of respondents compared with just 2% in 2012. Eighteen percent said they were most concerned about “consideration for others.”

The latest Gallup survey also came out two months after a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll showing that 42% of Americans saw gun violence and crime as top issues facing the country, with only inflation and rising costs causing more concern among respondents. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. parents are also concerned about school shootings, a CBS poll taken in June showed.

Julia Conley
Julia Conley

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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