Does happiness equate to shopping – in this economy? It depends
By Jay Keller
We’ve all heard the term “retail therapy” and many psychologists agree that shoppers with the blues who treat themselves to something nice do experience a lasting, positive uptick to their mood with little negative emotional effect.
This notion, however, challenges some of the conventional thinking in the retail industry where happy consumers as measured by the consumer confidence index relate directly to what they buy and watch.
Regardless of whether you go shopping to ease the blues or are more likely to shop when that frown is upside down, retailers are always looking for better intelligence to help them understand what’s on the mind of consumers.
And, with the most logical scapegoat being the economy to help explain why sales are down for some, a recent Harris Poll shows that while the attitudes on the economy may be improving, most Americans happiness overall is still not really improving.
In online surveys conducted by Harris Interactive since 2008, only one third of U.S. adults report being “very happy” overall but there’s more substance in the questions used to formulate the survey results.
“Our happiness index offers insight into what’s on the minds of Americans today and is a reflection of the state of affairs in our country,” Harris Poll SVP Regina Corso said in a recent statement.
The Harris Interactive Happiness Index is calculated by taking an average (mean) of those who strongly or somewhat agree with positive statements and strongly or somewhat disagree with the negative ones.
Men and women were provided with 11 statements on topics that span opinions and verities about friendship, career, money, daily routine and ambition.
Turning to specific statements tested as part of the index, a smaller percentage of Americans say they are “optimistic about the future,” with 67 percent agreeing in 2013 as opposed to the 75 percent in 2011.
When asked “at this time I’m generally happy with my life,” 77 percent agreed with this statement in 2013 versus the 83 percent who agreed in 2008.
Additionally, a greater percentage also agree that they won’t get much benefit from the “things that they do anytime soon” this year versus two years ago, with 42 percent agreeing in 2013 versus 38 percent in 2001.
When Harris broke up the data among various demographic groups, happiness has been less prevalent and on a downward trend for some time.
Corso added that among “sub-segments” of the population that include “minorities, recent graduates and the disabled,” happiness has “trended downward in the last couple years.”
The causes for the slide among these groups cannot be determined from the data but Harris suggests that politics might be at the root of disenchantment among minorities while the debate over the value of a college education might be impacting the woes of recent graduates.
And, with a smaller percentage agreeing that their “work is more frustrating than two years ago,” Harris also cautions that this sentiment better reflects a tough job market, where many realize that having a job is a good thing in this economy, instead of worker satisfaction, per se.