1. Americans have become more likely to mention society as a source of meaning in life, but much of this emphasis is negative.
Most of us are busy complaining about the end times so this shouldn't be surprising. It is discouraging but inevitable.
2. Americans – especially Republicans – have become more likely to mention freedom and independence as a source of meaning in life.
"Freedom" and "independence" are typically the excuses offered for a lack of social safety net. You have the "freedom" to select whatever insurance you want. You have the "independence" of home-schooling your children when the underfunded nightmare in your district collapses. "Freedom" and "independence" are the bywords of the anti-vax crowd: A friend of my wife's does surgery on unborn children in utero and she'll have people traveling hundreds of miles to do whatever risky, highly-specialized procedure she recommends but when she suggests they get vaccinated they've "done their own research." Republicans are three times less likely to be vaccinated and more people have died of COVID in 2021 than 2020, so the "freedom" and "independence" are coming at a cost.
3. Compared with 2017, fewer Americans now mention spouses or romantic partners as a source of meaning in life.
Scott Galloway's otherwise forgettable book puts forth the hypothesis that March through May 2020 were the equivalent of 10 years of history. He makes this hypothesis by pointing to the adoption curve of online shopping and then uses this hypothesis to justify every gonzo argument in the book but whatever - there's a truthiness to the notion that going through a pandemic with someone puts more mileage on your relationship, good or bad. We're currently dealing with three court orders at work related to custody battles, up from zero before now. If you're in an unhappy marriage it has either gotten much better or much worse.
4. Fewer Americans now mention finances, jobs or travel as a source of meaning in life than in 2017.
Whelp, finance has been utterly disconnected from performance, jobs are in a whole 'nuther realm and travel has become purgatorial.
5. Older Americans have grown less likely to mention their physical or mental health as a source of meaning in life.
Prolly 'cuz a fuckton of us don't have it anymore. I usually say "hey, I'm not dead" within fifteen minutes of meeting someone because we talk about corona the way we used to talk about the weather and "when did you get it" always comes up. And hey - I'm not dead. But I can barely run anymore. My stamina is done. And I'm one of the lucky ones, and I'm not an "older American." Friend of mine has been on a quad cane for two years now because any surgery to remedy things has been back-burnered. He ain't alone.
6. Most Americans are no more likely to mention difficulties or challenges than they were four years ago, although older adults are an exception.
I sure wish they explained this. As it is, a lot of us have a trail of dead. A lot of us are resetting. We don't know what to find meaning from because it's all transitory.