A Sink-or-Swim Moment in This Pandemic
The year was 1950, and America was a nation racked with uncertainty and fear. North Korean Communist forces invaded the South, and we were in the grips of another war. President Harry Truman placed America's railroads under the control of the U.S. Army.
A Cold War with Russia by then had long settled in. On the homefront, the ugly era of McCarthyism was beginning. People were not concerned about a deadly virus falling from the sky so much as a devastating, annihilating bomb. The president approved the construction of the hydrogen bomb in response to this threat, and Albert Einstein warned that nuclear war could lead to "mutual destruction."
Flash-forward to today. According to at least one new report, folks in the U.S. are more unhappy today than they were back then. Keep in mind that this conclusion was reached before the eruption of mass protests and the report that, as of June 23, more than 122,000 U.S. pandemic-caused deaths have occurred in the United States.
Called the COVID Response Tracking Study, the survey of 2,279 adults draws on nearly a half-century of research from the General Social Survey and was conducted May 21-29 with funding from the National Science Foundation. As reported by Time magazine, this periodic study has collected data on American attitudes and behaviors at least every other year since 1972.
According to the study (and not surprisingly), 2020 is proving to be one very rough year on the American psyche. Among some of its other findings, it shows that only 42% of Americans believe that when their children reach their age, their standard of living will be better.
As covered in a separate New York Times report, in May, citing a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the World Health Organization warned of "a massive increase in mental health conditions in the coming months."
According to the COVID Response Tracking Study, about twice as many Americans report being lonely today compared with 2018. Commenting on the report, Louise Hawkley, a senior research scientist at the University of Chicago, told Time magazine that she was surprised that loneliness was not even more prevalent. "It isn't as high as it could be," she says. "People have figured out a way to connect with others. It's not satisfactory, but people are managing to some extent."
Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, who has done happiness studies since the pandemic started, has even found some people to be slightly happier than last year.
"Human beings are remarkably resilient," she reminded Time reporter Tamar Lee. "There's lots and lots of evidence that we adapt to everything. We move forward," she said.
While some health officials have forecast a steep rise in new mental health disorders, there are also others who believe the impact is not likely to last. According to a New York Times report, many psychiatrists and therapists who work with people in the wake of natural disasters believe surveys that ask people about their emotions to be poor predictors of lasting distress.