California’s Happiness Panel Discusses What’s Getting Us Down

California’s Happiness Panel Discusses What’s Getting Us Down

Student loan debtors hold a rally in front of the White House to celebrate President Joe Biden's intent to cancel student debt on Aug. 24, 2022. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We the 45m)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

5/31/2024

Updated: 6/3/2024

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In the group’s second meeting after being established earlier this year, the Assembly’s Select Committee on Happiness and Public Policy Outcomes on May 29 weighed expert testimony and discussed the impacts of state policies on the quality of life for Californians.
Factors discussed in the hearing perceived to be contributing to a drop in happiness included income inequalities, uncertainty about the future, access to housing, student debt, excessive expectations, and economic potential.
Golden State residents reported an average happiness of a little less than seven out of 10—slightly higher than the 6.72 reported across the country—in a study conducted by Gallup for the 2024 World Happiness Report.
Differences exist across the state, with widespread distribution of answers in counties and cities—with about 20 percent of respondents ranking their happiness at a nine or 10, while another 20 percent reported scores of five or less.
Individuals in more affluent areas—including Marin, Santa Barbara, and Orange counties—were more likely to rank higher, according to the report.
One expert said that in his time in California and across the country, he witnessed “legalistic elements” that are negatively affecting society—including a propensity for lawsuits and a lack of trust between individuals.
“It has been slowly eroding social trust,” Dr. Jan-Emmanuel de Neve, director of the University of Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Centre and editor of the World Happiness Report, said during the hearing. “The ‘each to his own’ [philosophy] is a very sorry state of affairs.”
He also pointed to a need to “harness social media algorithms” that are potentially playing a role in degrading quality of life experiences, as some people are affected by an addiction to scrolling through social media feeds while exposed to negative emotional experiences.
“We know this is a crisis that is not necessarily new, but newly getting the attention that it deserves," said Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo. Above, Schiavo at a hearing on April 25, 2023. (Screenshot via YouTube/California Family Council)

“We know this is a crisis that is not necessarily new, but newly getting the attention that it deserves," said Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo. Above, Schiavo at a hearing on April 25, 2023. (Screenshot via YouTube/California Family Council)

Citing peer-reviewed statistics showing that a lower sense of well-being is indicative of decreased earning potential later in life, he suggested the economic consequences of happiness, or the lack thereof, are evidence that lawmakers should consider the well-being of citizens when crafting policies.
Across ages, those 60 and older reported the highest levels of happiness, while those 30 and under drag down averages—a relatively new development that differs from worldwide trends that typically demonstrate a “u-shape” of higher scores for youth and older respondents and lower rankings for those middle-aged.
Such has caused the United States to drop to 62nd worldwide, far trailing the Nordic countries of Finland and Denmark which top the list.
While some lawmakers expressed concern that the pandemic could be the reason some in California are reporting a decline in happiness, experts cited data showing that drops in quality of life predated 2020.
One committee member said she hopes the group can address the recent declines by identifying solutions.
“We know this is a crisis that is not necessarily new, but newly getting the attention that it deserves, I think, and hopefully something that we can make a significant impact on and really make change,” Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo said during the hearing.
The 11-person happiness committee is expected to meet again in the coming weeks, though no hearings are currently scheduled.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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