The General Social Survey (GSS) of the University of Chicago NORC has been monitoring societal change and studying the growing complexity of American society since 1972. In his book “Coming Apart” (2012) Charles Murray uses its data on self-reported happiness.
For U.S. whites (which is the group to which he limits this discussion) between 30-49 from 1990-2008 31% described themselves as “very happy,” 59% “pretty happy,” and only 10% as “not too happy.” However, when it comes to our closest relationships, family, the currently married report the highest level of happiness—40%. Separated, 16%; divorced 17%; widowed 22%; and never married 9%.
Ladies, ready for this? The happiest, most satisfied work/vocation category is homemakers at 57%, with paid employment at 44%. For attendance at religious services, those who attend more than weekly are at 49%, with weekly at 41%; those who attend once a year or less are at 26% and 25% (I call them Creasters if they attend at Christmas and Easter and then eat a holiday meal together). Also Murray reports that your involvement in your community contributes to your sense of happiness whether that is in a group, as a volunteer, in politics or even informal social interactions.
All of these relationships and activities add up to what Murray calls “social capital”—satisfying work, happy marriage, strong social relationships and strong religion. You can add to your capital and invest in your future and the future of your country.
And isn’t it interesting the very things that make us happy are those most maligned by media, Hollywood, pop culture and internet memes—it’s almost as though someone/something wants us to be miserable.