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National Well-Being Before and During the Pandemic

Tyler J. VanderWeele: At the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard, we have been trying to study and understand, empirically and quantitatively, how various domains of flourishing have changed during the pandemic. The results of this research are available in a newly published study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. This study used our flourishing measure across six domains of human life: happiness and life satisfaction, physical and mental health, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, close social relationships, and financial and material security. Data were collected on a national sample of individuals representative of the United States on geographic region, age, gender, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, and religious self-identification with 1,010 individuals in January of 2020 (prior to the World Health Organization declaration of the pandemic) and a similar sample of 3,020 individuals in June of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. Each of the six domains of flourishing was assessed using two questions from our flourishing measure. Unsurprisingly, flourishing in general has declined. Interestingly, however, different domains of flourishing have been affected in different ways. And some domains of flourishing have gone down a lot more than others.

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