New Year’s resolutions are a topic that people either love or hate. I recently heard someone say their new year’s resolution was to not make one anymore. The love/hate status may be due to the fact that self-reflection is often not the most comfortable of activities, leaving some to avoid making a resolution altogether, while some enjoy and fully embrace the opportunity to reset year after year. Maybe resolutions are based on happiness or wanting to find more fulfillment in life. Whatever it may be, change is hard.
CivicScience asks Americans about their upcoming New Year’s resolution plans every year in December; tracking if people are making one at all and if so what the subject is.
As of January 1, 2019, nearly 60% of American Adults plan to make a resolution for the new year. That’s a good chunk of the population.
One thing we can tell from looking at the question over time below is the number of people making resolutions has grown since 2015 (as you see in dark blue those who say they won’t make one has declined). However, you could say there is a consistent average of ~40% of the population who have no interest in making one, while the other ~60% do choose to resolve to something in the new year. Year over year (2017 to 2018), the group of people not making a resolution has slightly grown, making us wonder if resolutions are back on the decline.
Diet Resolutions Beat Fitness
Rebased among those who do plan to make a resolution this year, we start to see trends in the subjects people choose for resolutions.
Food and diet take the cake as the top subject, followed very closely by fitness and exercise. But over the years we see a different story.
Food and diet have surpassed exercise as a topic for resolution makers, though exercise is picking up steam again this year. Surprisingly, financial and spending resolution topics have remained completely flat over the past 3 years with only 12% of resolution-makers opting to improve how they manage their money over time. People don’t want to embrace financial change.
Younger People Want to Change
It seems the older you are, the more likely you won’t be making a resolution.
A clear picture emerges when looking at only those making resolutions by age group. It seems the younger generation (18-29) is largely focused on working on their relationships and personality, up to 4x more than any other age group, while the 30-44 group is the most likely to want to improve their diet and their financial situation. It seems the group driving a slight rise in fitness as a resolution topic is the middle age set.
The decline in resolution making with age may come down to life stage and being set in your ways. Younger people have more of an incentive to improve their lives through a new habit or intention – perhaps they are building their careers, relationships, and bank accounts, and therefore have more of a drive for self-improvement.
Men are less likely to make a resolution than women are this year, while of the two genders, women are setting resolutions that are food focused, and men are more fitness focused.
Though breaking down resolution subjects by parental status likely echoes the age group insights due to life stage, we see that parents are the most likely to resolve to improve their diet and the most likely to want to manage their money better in the upcoming year.
Interestingly enough, unmarried people are twice as likely as married people to choose a resolution around improving their relationships/personality. And, all in all, married people are less likely to make one at all.
Perhaps naturally, those who are happier are less likely to make a resolution than those who are unhappy. But those who are happy are more likely to want to improve their fitness and diet than unhappy people.
And with resolution-making seeing a slight decline this year, it’s no wonder. Historic CivicScience happiness data below indicate that people are getting slightly happier as the years go on.
So maybe resolutions are a mindset, clearing up the earlier hypothesis that if you’re content in life, you’re less likely to see a need for much of a change, new year or not.