What Makes Americans Happy and What Do We Fear Most? : Snakes Win Over Terrorism; Children Still Make Us Happy In Spite of World and Economic Conditions, Americans Say They Are Happy and Look to Get Even Happier National Survey Report by James T. Medick, Precision Opinion, Inc., December 8, 2008

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What a year this has been, economic crisis after crisis, jobs imploding, a presidential election and world terrorism, just to name a few. So the big question is – how are Americans holding up – what do they fear most and more importantly what makes them happy?

Going to my support group meetings

During the last 2 weeks of November 2008, Precision Opinion – a market research services firm in Las Vegas, Nevada set out to find the answers to those and other pressing questions. Using a random digit dial methodology, Precision Opinion completed 1,385 telephone interviews on a national basis with adults 18-years of age and older. The statistical results of a poll this large deliver a margin of error of +/- 3.5% at a 99% confidence level. The poll consisted of 47% male and 53% female respondents. In other words – these results are considered very accurate.

Regarding the "big" question –just how happy are we as a nation, a full 21% of the respondents rated themselves a "10". Meaning they are Very Happy. Only 3% found themselves on the opposite end of the scale – that is being Not Very Happy. Overall, looking at those who responded to the 10-point scale with an 8, 9, or 10: 64% of the US population find themselves at this very moment – Happy. Only 5% find themselves not Happy (answered with a 1, 2 or 3 on the 10-point happiness scale).

However, not everyone is equally happy. The happiest, those who rated themselves as a "10" are more likely to be 61 years of age or older and most likely retired. Guess getting out of the rat race does not hurt. Plus other 10's on the happy-scale are those who DO NOT have a college degree, those who are "born-again" and / or go to religious services once a week or more. And no, democrats are not necessarily happier than republicans – but women are happier than men.

However, in spite of everything – overall – we remain a "happy" bunch.

But surely, we were all happier last year? Wrong. Get this, 47% of the respondents say their personal happiness has increased over the past year – and a full 64% see their happiness increasing even more over the next 12-months. Optimism reigns supreme.

Those seeing a more-happy future over the next 12-months are more likely to be 18 to 50 years of age, currently unemployed, born-again, and yes, you guessed it – a democrat.

Want to know what makes people happy? The theme here was consistent across the survey with family being the foundation to happiness. In order of making one the happiest were Children, Marriage / Spouse / Significant Other, Family, and Religion. These four categories accounted for 65% of the total responses.

Of course we would not be Americans if other things outside of family and religion didn't make us happy. While not being what we call statistically significant – but most certainly interesting –other "happiness-providers" were mentioned by the respondents – such as:

"Being away from my husband" "Loose women" "Having fuel in the fuel tank" "Organic food in the refrigerator" "Beer and cigarettes" "Going to my support group meetings" And of course "the new president". We are a complicated bunch aren't we?

Nevertheless, not everything makes us happy – right? The top Un-Happy Makers include the economy, politics, health, mean people and work. These five totaled up to 66% of the top un-happy events. However, of course there were a few unique responses including:

"Lack of sleep" "Stress" "The neighbor's dog" And, on a worldlier note, "people suffering". OK – we now have a pretty good understanding that overall, we are a happy bunch. Yes, certain things make us unhappy. However, we are optimistic that everything will improve in the next 12-months.

But wait – of all the things going on in the world today – while we may be happy, we are bound to be afraid of something – right?

Exactly. We asked the 1,385 adults – of what they are most afraid? We read off a whole list of possibilities – and the number one thing that Americans are most afraid of is not the economy, not terrorists, but the same thing that scares Indiana Jones – SNAKES.

18% of the top responses of things one fears very much were snakes, followed by more serious issues as not having enough money to retire, mother-in-laws moving in and oh yea – the collapse of the US Economy.

By the way, the collapse of the US Economy just beat out fear of heights.

It's nice to know we have priorities.

At least we are more fearful of Terrorists than we are of Aliens.

We will check back in a couple of months – just to see if the happiness trends continue. In the meantime, keep up the positive attitude – and stay happy.

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Tom Tanno
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