If you've noticed while driving that more people are running stop signs, cutting you off, and acting rude and distracted, the recent Gallup poll may provide some insight as to why.
The Gallup poll found that Americans are among the most stressed-out people in the world, experiencing high levels of anger, worry, sadness and physical pain. 55% of respondents reported that they felt a lot of stress, compared to the global average of 35%. American stress was at about the same level as countries embroiled in humanitarian, economic or security-related turmoil, like Albania, Iran and Sri Lanka. Only the Philippines and Tanzania had higher levels of stress.¹
Gallup found that a major factor in American stress is personal financial security. 40% of Americans reported that they are either running into debt or barely making ends meet. Only 25% said that they are saving enough for retirement. 18% admitted they have saved nothing at all. This is corroborated by a 2018 study by Northwestern Mutual, which found that a third have less than $5,000 stashed away for retirement, while 21% have saved nothing.²
In addition, 49% of Gallup's respondents worried about paying their rent or mortgage, or being able to make minimum payments on their credit cards. Another 14% worried about paying for healthcare, or about suffering a major illness or accident.³
Yet, the stock market is breaking records highs, unemployment is at near record lows, and the economy is growing at a nearly 3% annualized pace. Although Trump claims that "Everywhere we look, we are seeing the effects of the American economic miracle,"⁴ it is clearly far from "everywhere." The U.S. economy is booming, but it is only benefiting some people. Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council reported that the top 1% of the U.S. population owned 38.6% of the total wealth in the country, and that "the U.S. already leads the developed world in income and wealth inequality."⁵ Tellingly, in the Gallup poll, those with immediate cash flow concerns tended to be Democrats, while those with no concerns were mostly Republicans.
Nearly 30% of Gallup's respondents rated their financial situation as "only fair" and 15% said it was "poor." Meanwhile, 25% worried "all" or "most of the time" that their income would not be enough to cover their expenses. A third lacked enough savings to cover an unexpected $400 expense, like a medical emergency, without selling something or borrowing money. Alarmingly, one out of four Americans skipped a medical treatment in the past year because they could not afford it.⁶
Younger Americans (between ages 15 and 49) were the most likely to feel stressed, due to violence, political turmoil, finances and health. This has caused disproportionately high rates of anxiety, loneliness and depression. Of great concern is that chronic stress is connected to a range of serious conditions, including mental health issues, cognitive changes, and chronic disease. ¹
Who benefits from the U.S. economy is likely to become a key topic of contention in the upcoming 2020 elections. There are two fears that are common among both Democrats and Republicans, affecting more than 50% of Americans -- healthcare and long-term financial security. As a result, we can anticipate that Democrats and Republicans will clash on these two pivotal issues in 2020.
¹ Time Magazine 4/25/2019
² Northwestern Mutual 5/18/2018
³ Gallup 7/15/2019
⁴ www.whitehouse.gov 2/5/2019
⁵ Los Angeles Times 6/6/2018
⁶ CNBC 5/28/2019
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