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People Are Showing Surprising Resilience Despite Today's Challenges

It's possible to thrive amid numerous struggles, a new survey finds.

Key points

  • More than 40 percent of people report living well despite struggles, according to a new survey of Michigan residents.
  • Some cohorts, such as women, young adults, and people of color, were significantly more likely to report that they were struggling.
  • There are actions communities can take to help people access the knowledge, tools, and support they need to care for their wellbeing.
Source: iStock:praetorianphoto

A new survey of Michigan residents from The Wellbeing Lab, which I co-founded, has revealed that while 13% report that they are really struggling , 10% are consistently thriving , and 41.7% are living well, despite struggles .

The Wellbeing Lab 2021 Communities Report surveyed a randomly selected sample representative of Michigan's adult population by gender, age, and location at the end of March 2021 to provide insights into current states of wellbeing across communities in the region.

The research demonstrates that even when facing a global pandemic, a changing political and economic landscape, and numerous personal and professional challenges, it appears possible to thrive despite struggles. However, the study found that women, people aged 18 to 24, people of color, and people in households earning less than $20,000 were significantly more likely to report that they were really struggling .

What Shapes Wellbeing?

The data clearly shows that caring for community wellbeing is more than just the sum of how individuals are feeling and functioning. Instead, our wellbeing perceptions, experiences, and behaviors are diverse and are shaped within our communities by:

  • Intrapersonal factors (e.g., personality, skills, motivation).
  • Interpersonal factors (e.g., our interactions with and relationships with others).
  • External community factors (e.g., housing quality, education levels, access to resources, equality) that dynamically impact each other.

For example, people who were thriving even in the face of struggle reported:

  • Higher levels of ability and motivation to care for their wellbeing, and safe spaces to talk with others about the wellbeing challenges they may be facing.
  • Feeling like they belonged in at least four or more places in their community—such as with family, with friends, at work, and in their neighborhood.
  • Having access to community healthcare facilities, natural environments (like parks), mental health support, opportunities for connection, and wellbeing information and tools.

Unfortunately, almost 4 of every 10 people in Michigan felt it was best to keep their wellbeing struggles to themselves. Given that mental health was the leading cause of struggle for 33.2% of Michiganders, normalizing and making it safe to talk about these struggles for more people could have a significant impact on wellbeing.

Other wellbeing challenges that emerged from the survey included:

  • 90.7% of Michiganders reported feeling worried or anxious about the economy. This was largely true of all demographic groups but was slightly more heightened for Asians.
  • 53.1% of Michiganders reported having enough financially to meet their needs this month; however, this was less likely to be true for women, Asians, and other people of color.
  • People who had received either a single dose or both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were significantly more likely to be thriving. People who reported having no intention of receiving the vaccine were statistically more likely to be really struggling.
  • More than 2 out of 10 Michiganders (21.4%) reported feeling very lonely and isolated. People aged 24 to 35 years, and people of color of all ages, were significantly more likely to report that they had felt alone and isolated over the past two weeks.
  • 43.6% of Michiganders reported having a neighbor they could call in an emergency. However, Asians and people aged 18 to 24 years were less likely to have access to such support.

The good news is that data clearly shows that there are immediate actions communities can take to help everyone in their community have access to the knowledge, tools, and support they need to care for their wellbeing.