When reaching for the key to happiness, it's better to go for the golden ring than the greenback.
A new Gallup poll of 1,010 adults shows most Americans are generally satisfied with the way their personal life is going. But those with higher personal incomes and especially those who are married are more likely to say they're very happy with their personal life.
Married adults at any income level were as likely, if not more likely, to report being happy than even the wealthiest unmarried adults.
Overall, the poll shows more than nine in 10 Americans describe themselves as "happy" and just 4 percent are "not too happy." About 64 percent of married people said they are very satisfied with the way their personal life is going, compared with 43 percent of singles.
And while 72 percent of respondents with incomes of $75,000 or higher reported being very satisfied with their personal life, a mere 36 percent of those with an annual income of $30,000 or less did.
Researchers say Americans have always reported a high level of personal satisfaction, with at least eight in 10 adults saying they're happy with their personal life in polls since 1993. In the current poll, conducted by telephone Dec. 11-14, 2006, 84 percent of Americans 18 and older said they were satisfied with the way things were going in their personal life, despite being in a nation at war. Only 15 percent said they were dissatisfied with their personal life.
Although the vast majority of Americans were satisfied with their personal life, researchers found money and marriage appeared to go hand in hand with higher levels of personal satisfaction and happiness.
Combining the results of the 2006 poll with those from 2005 and 2004, researchers say marriage may be more strongly associated with personal happiness than money.
For example, 56 percent of married adults in the lowest income bracket reported being very happy, compared with 50 percent of unmarried adults in the highest bracket. But marriage and money seemed to be even better — 67 percent of married adults in the highest income group said they are very happy.
However, when it comes to the way their country is faring, only 30 percent said they are satisfied — 54 points below the 84% satisfied with their personal life.
Researchers say it's not the first time such a large gap has been found between personal and national satisfaction. The largest gap (64 points) was in January 1981, a time of record gasoline prices and the humiliation of Americans held hostage in Iran from 1979 until their release that month.
The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
SOURCES: Gallup Poll of a random national sample of 1,010 adults interviewed by telephone Dec. 11-14, 2006. News release, Gallup Organization.
By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D