The devastating situation in Ukraine is weighing heavily on the minds of Americans. Measuring the collective emotional health of the nation, the CivicScience Well-Being Index plummeted this week and is likely to continue its downward trajectory.
The index calculates well-being as an estimated percentage of the population who report, at any moment, how strongly they are feeling positive emotions (e.g., happy or excited) and not so strongly feeling negative emotions (e.g., sad, stressed, afraid, or worried). A lower score suggests a lower overall sense of mental well-being.
After a brief period of relative stability beginning in the fall of 2021, well-being rapidly deteriorated nearly seven points (to 51.0) in the past two weeks, coinciding with the onset of the war in Ukraine. In perspective, that’s somewhat lower than the last major dip in the index (to 53.0), which occurred in August of 2021 as concerns over the Delta variant mounted.
Looking at specific emotional markers shows losses in feelings of happiness and excitement as more Americans report feeling fear, worry, stress, and sadness. For example, more than half of U.S. adults (55%) are experiencing feelings of worry and more than one-third (35%) are experiencing feelings of fear.
While young adults have reported overall lower levels of well-being throughout 2021 and into 2022, it’s people ages 35 and over who are driving the recent decline. The Gen X generation (ages 35-54) appears to be the most affected.
In a rare occurrence for the Well-Being Index, both Democrats and Conservatives alike experienced a tandem drop in overall mental well-being over the past two weeks. Large differences in emotional sentiment can be seen across party lines over the course of the pandemic, diverging wildly around the 2020 election, but that gap has narrowed in 2021 and continues to in response to recent global events.
CivicScience will continue to track Americans’ emotional well-being and to study its dynamic relationships, such as how well-being correlates with consumer spending habits.