The collective emotional well-being of the United States saw its largest month-to-month drop this year, as shown by the CivicScience Well-Being Index. Well-being plunged 3%, from 57.5% in September to 55.8% in October, a downturn not seen in more than a year-and-a-half. Well-being currently rests below fall 2021 levels, when the COVID-19 pandemic was still at the fore.

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Israel-Hamas War and Concerns Over Global Unrest Likely Sparked Decline

The well-being of Americans has been trending downward after peaking this June, which coincided with falling economic outlook seen on the Penta-CivicScience Economic Sentiment Index. A closer reading of the Well-Being Index shows that the largest drop occurred during the first week of October and continued to stay low throughout the month – suggesting the latest major decline is tied more to the progression of the Israel-Hamas war than to economic and financial concerns.

For one, economic confidence rebounded significantly by the second half of the month after falling to a year low. Second, this pattern was witnessed from February to March 2022, when well-being plummeted to a record low as Americans turned their attention to the Russia-Ukraine war. Similarly, the Israel-Hamas war is currently top-of-mind. CivicScience data from earlier in the month revealed that more than 80% of U.S. adults are following coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, while 87% expressed concern about it.

Well-Being Falls Across Demographics, Except for Gen Z

Looking at individual markers, Americans reported increased feelings of stress, worry, sadness, and fear this month, while reporting less happiness and excitement. The decline is reflected across different demographics. Well-being fell 2.2 points for White Americans, 1.1 points for Black Americans, and 0.1 points for Hispanic Americans, who report the lowest overall well-being.

And while well-being fell for most age groups, it actually improved slightly for Gen Z (increasing 0.5 points). Adults aged 18-24 were feeling better off than young Millennials (25-34) for the month of October, yet these two groups still fall well below the reported well-being of older age groups.

Well-being also declined similarly across party lines, with Democrats reporting the lowest overall well-being at 54.3%.

Well-being largely correlates with spending – increases in emotional well-being track alongside increases in spending, especially within certain categories – suggesting continued declining well-being could contribute to a more bearish holiday season. In fact, ongoing tracking finds that 1-in-3 Americans say they will spend less on gifts and purchase fewer of them this year compared to last year.

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What is the CivicScience Well-Being Index? 

Everything affects everything – that includes how a person feels at any given moment in time. The CivicScience Well-Being Index rapidly captures the collective emotional well-being of the population on a daily basis by asking thousands of survey respondents to report on how strongly they feel different emotions. Through living indexes like the Well-Being Index, CivicScience helps businesses and organizations better understand what’s driving consumer choices, empowering them with the data-driven insight needed to navigate our rapidly changing times.