skip to main content

How Happy Is Gen Z?

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time in the World Happiness Report’s 12-year history, the U.S. didn’t make the list of the world’s top 20 happiest countries. It dropped from 15th to 23rd place out of more than 130 countries between 2023 and 2024. The decline is at least partly attributable to the unhappiness of Americans under 30.

New research from the Gallup-Walton Family Foundation Voices of Gen Z study, developed with happiness expert Arthur C. Brooks, offers more insight into how happy U.S. young people are and suggests ways to increase their happiness. The survey, conducted Nov. 27-30, 2023, via the Gallup Panel, collected responses from a nationally representative sample of 2,271 12- to 26-year-olds.

The report finds that about three-quarters of Gen Z -- the children and young adults born between 1997 and 2012 -- say they are very happy (25%) or somewhat happy (48%). It also reveals that in addition to about one-quarter of Gen Z who are not happy, about one-quarter of Gen Z do not consistently feel like their life matters, about half often feel anxious, and roughly one in five often feel depressed.


So, what makes Gen Z happy?

Purpose in School and Work Are Important Drivers of Happiness

The report suggests that several factors significantly influence Gen Zers’ happiness, after accounting for components such as people's financial and mental health.

These factors all relate to feeling fulfillment at school or work. Specifically, 60% of Gen Zers who identify as a happy person say they do something interesting every day, compared with 28% of those who generally don't feel happy. Also, about two-thirds (64%) of Gen Z members who are happy, versus 38% of those who are not happy, agree that the things they do at work or school are important. The connection between happiness and Gen Z's motivation to go to school or work is similar, with 60% who say they are happy and 31% who are not happy feeling motivated.


Closely related to whether Gen Zers see themselves as happy is the extent to which they feel their lives have significance and direction. In this respect, about half of Gen Z members say they always feel their life matters, and an additional 28% say they often feel this way. However, fewer say their life has direction -- six in 10 Gen Zers say they always (28%) or often (32%) feel this way.


As with overall happiness, the extent to which Gen Zers feel what they do at work or school is interesting and meaningful significantly influences whether they feel their lives matter and have direction.

Bottom Line

The data suggest that having daily activities they find interesting, motivating or important could offer Gen Zers a reliable path to happiness. Additionally, the survey found that getting enough sleep and having enough relaxation periods during the week are strong predictors of Gen Z’s overall happiness. However, between 42% and 49% of Gen Z say they don’t feel purpose in their daily activities, do not get enough sleep and do not get enough relaxation.

Addressing the U.S. happiness problem could start with helping Gen Z adults find the best match for their interests when choosing college programs or careers, and making sure that Gen Z children are excited by and see the value in what they are learning in the classroom. Ensuring that this next generation coming into adulthood finds fulfillment in developing themselves for success would be building a strong foundation for the nation’s future.

Learn more about the Gallup-Walton Family Foundation Voices of Gen Z study: Youth Happiness here.

To stay up to date with the latest Gallup News insights and updates, follow us on X.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030