Social stress

Every year for the past fifty years, Americans have reported that their overall happiness had declined.  And all of us are aware that our society puts some big obstacles between us and happiness.  Here are a few that you may not be aware of:

  • Overworked and Overstressed.  In America from 1980 to 2005, the average citizen has increased his working hours from 40 to 50—more than any other country in the world, including Japan.  And all this effort was just to keep our heads above water, because our individual standard of living didn’t improve and we all went deeper and deeper into debt during that time. 
  • Materialistic Values.  Scientists know that the more materialistic you are, the more unhappy you’ll be.  Yet popular culture keeps brainwashing us into believing that happiness comes from wearing the right clothes, living in a big house, going to the right schools.  When we do all that and still feel unhappy, there’s nowhere to turn except to blame ourselves.
  • Rugged Individualism.  When you rank countries around the world by their average happiness scores, you find that most Northern European countries are generally happier than the USA.  These are societies that place a great emphasis on safety and security; on cooperation and social fairness rather than competition and achievement.
  • Loss of Trust.  In those same yearly happiness surveys, Americans also report that they visit with neighbors less and less every year.  Every year, they trust their government less and less.  Same with medicine, education, the legal system.  We’ve lost faith in practically every social institution you can think of.  It’s hard to be happy when you don’t feel safe, when you feel like you’re literally on your own.
  • Breakup of Family and Community.  Again looking around the world, you find that many Latin American countries, despite being much poorer, are much happier than America.  These are societies where family and religious ties are very strong, where the idea of moving away from home to find a better job is still a rare thing.
  • The Economic Meltdown.  And in the last few years, we’ve all lost savings, we all worry more about losing our jobs, our incomes have declined greatly.  We worry about not having enough to live on, about becoming homeless, losing everything.  Most of us used to be insulated from that kind of fear—no more.

Our society as it works now is only creating anxiety, stress, and conflict.  No wonder it’s difficult to be happy in America.



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