We’ve Got Our Worries, But They Don’t Wreck Our Lives

Death be not proud: Americans are more likely to worry about money. In a poll by Barna Research, adults were asked to identify “the most pressing challenges and difficulties they face.” What’s most striking is that an enviable one in five couldn’t come up with any. Among respondents who did cite a problem, 28 percent picked one related to finances. Health was the runner-up (19 percent), followed by career concerns (16 percent), parenting struggles (11 percent), family relationships (7 percent) and “accomplishing personal goals” (7 percent). In some respects, the findings played true to stereotype, with men more apt to fret about career and women more vexed by parenting. But women were also more likely than men to worry about health, despite their propensity for outliving men by half a decade. Age was another dividing line in this poll. Respondents under age 35 put finances and career atop their worry lists; baby boomers cited finances and health. Respondents age 55 and older picked health and finances, but with the former outpointing the latter by a three-to-one margin. Notwithstanding these and other worries, 78 percent of the poll’s respondents rated themselves as completely or mostly satisfied with their lives these days. This is not an atypical finding: Surveys routinely find a majority of Americans are personally satisfied, even as they feel the rest of the world is going to hell in a handbasket. To the extent this has changed since Sept. 11, it has been in a tendency to be more upbeat about the nation at large—not to be more downbeat about one’s own life. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll last month, 57 percent of respondents said the events of that day had changed their own lives in a lasting way—and of these, 73 percent said it was a change “for the better.” Among people who said the country had been changed in a lasting way (as did 86 percent of all respondents), 78 percent said it was a change for the better.