In the US, we currently live during a time of immense, restless unhappiness. Experts also warn of a mental health crisis, especially among adolescents. Loneliness, exacerbated by recent lockdowns, plagues young and old alike. Now, not everyone in the United States experiences the same levels of unhappiness, loneliness, or mental health issues. Research shows that conservatives are the happiest, experience more companionship, and have less mental health issues than their liberal or progressive neighbors. Furthermore, conservative parents produce happier and mentally healthier children. But why? I will share some thoughts below. Oh, and a bit of advice to those liberal data nuts out there…If you desire a happier and less lonely life for yourself and your children, I recommend changing your political affiliation.
Conservatives (Republicans) Are Happier
According to Paul Taylor at the Pew Research Center, even during the financial meltdown of their 401Ks in 2008, Republicans (conservatives) experienced greater happiness than their Democrat counterparts. At the time, 37% of Republicans reported being “very happy” compared with 25% of Democrats. Some interesting facts from the study show why Republicans tend towards greater happiness than Democrats. For example, Republicans have more money and friends. They are more religious (belong to an established community), physically healthier, and are more likely married. They like their families more and consider themselves better off than their parents. Now, some liberal readers may decry that all this happiness is because Republicans possess greater wealth. However, according to the study, their happiness has more to do with what money cannot buy. Only 9% of Republicans reported wealth as a source of happiness, while marriage (62%), children (68%), and religion (64%) occupied the top spots.
Republicans, as a group, tend to want what they already have. Democrats, as a group, tend to want what they don’t have.
Moreover, these trends have held since 2008, as RealClearScience reported in August of 2022. Clearly, from the data available, conservatives are happier than liberals.
A Meaningful Life (Conservatives Have More of It)
In 2019, David Newman and some of his colleagues, evaluated studies on the topic of meaning and purpose of life spanning thirty-seven years, fourteen countries, and twenty-five thousand participants. They found “consistent evidence that conservatives report greater meaning and purpose in life than liberals, and this pattern is not specific to Americans.” The greatest link between meaning and conservatism occurred among social conservatives. This correlates with the 2008 Pew Research study that places marriage, children, and religion as key conservative values. I touched on religion and the meaning of life in a previous article. I note there (and a 2019 Pew Research study backed me up) that religious people are happier and, therefore, for them, their lives obtain greater meaning. This, in turn, relates directly to mental health among both conservatives and liberals.
Liberals and Mental Health
Musa al-Gharbi, the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in Sociology at Columbia University, recently wrote of the mental health decline in liberals. In the article for American Affairs titled How to Understand the Well-Being Gap between Liberals and Conservatives, he cites multiple sources and studies to show that there exists a significant “well-being gap” between conservatives and liberals. I could quote this article in full, as the data reflected in it paints a bleak picture for the mental health of liberals. But for the sake of time, I will provide some highlights below.
Liberals are also much more likely than conservatives to be diagnosed with mental illnesses or disorders.
Liberals, especially white liberals, are also much more anxious about interactions across difference.
White liberals are far more likely than anyone else to claim to have a mental illness or disorder. Whites who identify as “very liberal” or “liberal” are nearly twice as likely to claim mental illness as non-whites who share the same ideological identification.
Some strains of liberal ideology…likely exacerbate (and even incentivize) anxiety, depression, and other forms of unhealthy thinking. The increased power and prevalence of these ideological frameworks post-2011 may have contributed to the dramatic and asymmetrical rise in mental distress among liberals over the past decade.
In short, al-Gharbi all but declares liberal thought, with its emphasis on injustice, prejudice, and victimhood, a detriment to mental health among liberals. Sadly, al-Gharbi (and others) also shows that this decline in mental health among liberals does not only affect adults, but children, too.
The Liberal Child and Mental Health
Additionally, al-Gharbi begins his article citing a study by Catherine Gimbrone regarding depression among adolescents by political belief. According to Gimbrone’s study of over eighty-five thousand adolescents, internalizing symptoms (depressive effect, self-esteem, self-derogation, and loneliness) significantly increased (worsened) in liberals, especially female liberals, and concluded:
…political beliefs are likely one of many important factors influencing recent trends in adolescent internalizing symptoms that warrant further investigation.
From 2010 to 2018, symptoms of depression rose by 50% among female liberals, according to the study. Why? It appears the anxiety, depression, and other forms of unhealthy thinking (victimhood) among liberal parents transfers to their children.
Conversely, Scott A. McGreal points out in his article for Psychology Today in 2019 that conservatives, even conservative youth, tend towards valuing personal responsibility and therefore engaged in more healthy behaviors “(e.g., not smoking, exercising more, etc.) that lead to better health.” This focus, in turn, leads to a healthier adolescent, both mentally and physically. Furthermore, if one experiences a healthy adolescence, one experiences a heathier adulthood and beyond.
What Does the Data Tell Us?
Well, those who live the happiest, healthiest, and most fulfilling lives tend to identify as conservatives. Moreover, the happiest people’s values are conservative values, like traditional views on marriage, family, religion, and personal responsibility. Overall, conservatives believe their lives possess meaning and purpose, a purpose they themselves contribute to. On the other hand, the data shows that liberals live significantly less happy, more unhealthy (both physically and mentally), and lonely lives. More prone towards anxious and unhealthy thinking, liberals also experience higher degrees of mental health issues, like depression. Some, seeing themselves as victims, fall deeper and deeper into poor mental health. As they are not responsible for their current state, they see no remedy for it, save the overthrow of the oppressor. Furthermore, liberals belong to established religious groups at a much lower rate. Therefore, they strive for external change, not internal. If external change does not happen, their mental health worsens.
To conclude, let’s revisit the opening paragraph of this article. In it, I contend that conservatives are the happiest, experience more companionship, and suffer less mental health issues than their liberal or progressive neighbors. Oh, and they produce happier, healthier, and less depressed children. I believe the data provided proves these facts. While not an argument for one to change their political views, I think the data should give liberals pause. If one wants to experience the happiest and most fulfilled life for themselves and their children, being a liberal is not the way to do it.