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.

10 comments

  1. America is a country (nation-state) of, by, and for the 1% capitalist class. The working class, now that push is coming to shove, count for little to nothing. The amazing and most disturbing thing is the dumb Americans bought into the lie for so long.

    What the American working class needs to do, if they want to have a chance at a decent life, is to overthrow the capitalist economic system that is oppressing and ultimately killing them.

    It’s time, long past time, to wake up and smell the oppression. Kill the economic system of capitalism before it kills us all…

    1. Why aren’t they using and circulating their own debt-free market based money instead of relying on the IOUs of the state ??? They’ve made their own beds.

  2. More than 99% of all Americans (and all consumers elsewhere) circulate debt based IOU’s called legal tender. That’s a choice. Are they all looking for someone to blame ?

    1. There is a bird they use on certain German & Swiss clocks that describes you. A moderator to screen out this sort of piffle should be the top budget item at this rehash site.

  3. And so what will the American sheeple do then? Oh, why, like good lemmings they’ll vote for the China-hating, Muslim-hating, Christian Fascist Republicans to replace the war-mongering Neoliberal fake left Democrats in November. What a revolution! We simply want lower Gas prices and more Empire bullying! Who else is excited for Murica’s future? We don’t have to throw the bums out!

  4. Look up the Cantril scale. It sounds impressive right? In fact “Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale” means, “ladder” and I am not kidding. Showing a ladder you are asked, “What rung you are on?” That’s it. Nothing more. Even the most rudmentary teacher of English working out of a trailer in Appalachia will grade you an F for using, “Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale” when “ladder” would do.

    Idiotic crap like this, presented in jargon vocabulary by “little writers on the make” is the sort of online dreck that confuses the simple-minded and explains absolutely nothing.

    I saw an article recently demonstrating the tough times we are in, via a fat person sitting in a restaurant booth bemoaning the increase in the price of chicken wings. This is how writers like Julia Conley treat readers, like fat children staring at sugar coated chicken wings under the theat that they may not get their greasy fill and ie are suffering. With a (improperly edited for tone) Banksy image, all propaganda on woke dopes is possible.

    1. Succinctness is to be lauded, but it can also obscure if it cuts out too much in the interest of brevity.

      In this case, “ladder” doesn’t really do justice to the concepts embodied in “Self-Anchoring Striving Scale.” Self anchoring means one’s subjective perception; striving means one’s sense of motivation in the context of those subjective goals.

      Neither of these aspects could be gleaned from the term “ladder” with any assurance. Communication is always fraught- too many words/jargon and one alienates or confuses, too few and one can mislead the reader.

      That line is different for different people.

  5. Atlantic published a study a few years ago—americans complain about pain more than any other nation—where does this insecurity derive?—victimology is rewarded in USA,

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