What makes life meaningful? More Americans say money than faith

By Melissa Locker

The U.S. may need to listen to a little more Notorious B.I.G. Despite his clear warnings about mo’ money meaning mo’ problems, a new Pew Research Center survey reveals that Americans find more meaning in money than in friends, faith, or even health.

To figure out where Americans find meaning, Pew researchers sent out two surveys: One asked 4,729 U.S. adults to choose from 15 potentially meaningful options, and the other had 4,867 U.S. adults describe what they found meaningful in their own words.

Across both surveys, they found that Americans find meaning in their own family. (Keep that in mind when Uncle Bob insists on recounting his favorite moments from Piers Morgan’s Twitter feed over the Thanksgiving turkey.) After family, one-third of Americans start talking about their career or job, and nearly a quarter mention finances or money, and the two are quite clearly intertwined.

Much further down the list are things like faith, friends, activities like travel, and even health. Of course, a money-making career makes it easier to ensure life’s necessities are covered. Once home, food, and health insurance are taken care of, it’s easier to pursue meaningful things like wellness trends, wellness retreats, and friendships where you talk about wellness trends. According to Pew’s research, Americans with high levels of household income and higher education are more likely to mention friendship, good health, stability, and travel as sources of meaning in their lives.

Broken down by income, 25% of Americans who earn at least $75,000 a year mention their friendships as a source of meaning, compared with 14% of Americans who earn less than $30,000 each year. Similarly, 23% of higher-income U.S. adults mention good health, compared with 10% of lower-income Americans. And among those with a college degree, 11% mention travel and a sense of security as things that make their lives fulfilling, compared with 3% and 2% for those with a high school diploma or less.

Take a look and perhaps you’ll have something to discuss over Thanksgiving dinner other than politics and the Notorious B.I.G.


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