"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands,"
the catchy children's song goes. North Carolinians are joining our neighbors across the nation in smiling more, going to restaurants, shopping, attending church and other events, and interacting socially with others, according to new studies.
For many years the Gallup Organization has conducted nationwide surveys to determine if people are thriving, struggling or surviving. This annual poll is often identified as the happiness index and their just-released findings say we are happier than we've been in 13 years. In June, 59.2 percent indicated they are thriving, contrasted with only 46 percent in April of last year, when we were in the throes of COVID-19. In an Axios/Ipsos poll only 9 percent reported their mental health was worse than the week before, compared to 35 percent in March 2020. And lest you think this has something to do with politics, percentages for both Democrats and Republicans were the same (8 percent). What is the large or moderate risk that we won't return to our pre-COVID lifestyles? In June only 28 percent believed it much of a risk, compared to 73 percent who expressed the fear back in December.
What has changed to make us so much more positive? The rollout of the vaccine and large numbers being vaccinated is the number one reason given. The surging economy, number of new jobs created and the largest increase of wage growth in the past 20 years is also spawning optimism. We are thrilled to renew social interactions with family, friends and co-workers in both small and larger gatherings.
Is this just a temporary happiness spike or a longer-term reality? Anyone who tells you they know that answer for certain shouldn't be trusted, however there are some things we can do to help ensure our continued happiness.
First and most important is to get the shot! It may not be the only reason, but the primary factor in the decline in North Carolina's number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths has been the numbers being vaccinated. In recent days new cases and hospitalization numbers have been inching up; in some states conditions are getting dangerously worse due to the Delta variant virus strain.
North Carolina's vaccination record is lower than the national average. With the Tuesday addition of data from federal departments, 59 percent of those 18 and older have had one dose of vaccine and 56 percent are fully vaccinated. Nationally, 67 percent of those 18 and older have had one dose and 60 percent are fully vaccinated. To prevent COVID from surging again and perhaps restricting our newfound freedoms (whether by government mandate or not) everyone needs to get vaccinated. This isn't political or religious — it is good health advice and common sense. You have to have vaccinations to go to college, get many jobs, travel or doing any number of things. GET THE SHOT!
Second, use common sense as you return to more normal life. Even if fully vaccinated there might be some occasions where you would be well advised to wear a mask, especially in large venues like concerts, sporting events or festivals. Until things are totally back to normal don't take unwarranted risks.
One thing we've noticed is that North Carolinians are once again demonstrating the hospitality and friendliness for which our state is known. People are so happy to see each other that they show it through smiles, kindness and respect. Happy people, thriving people, share their optimism and positive attitudes with others. It's contagious. People want to be around others who are kind, neighborly and genuine.
We don't have to clap our hands, stomp our feet or shout hurray to let people know how happy we are because, as the song says, our faces will surely show it.
Note: On Wednesday, North Carolina added data from federal departments to the state's vaccination totals. Those numbers boosted the percentages of at least one dose to 59 percent and fully vaccinated to 53 percent.
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. He recently retired from writing, producing and moderating the statewide half-hour TV program NC SPIN that aired 22 ˝ years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.