America's Positive Attitude Makes Us More Resilient

True to form, Americans are vastly more optimistic than their counterparts in the developed world, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.

True to form, Americans are vastly more optimistic than their counterparts in the developed world, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.


Americans ranked much higher than the global average of respondents, in a survey taken from 44 countries spanning the globe, when it came to believing that (1) hard work is more likely to result in success; (2) God provides the world with moral order; and (3) today is a good day.

"When asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it is was a '10' or 'very important,' compared with a global median of 50% among the 44 nations."

When we believe in our own power to make it through difficult situations, we are more likely to actually succeed in doing so. This is a lesson Dennis Charney, MD, learned while conducting psychological evaluations of American war veterans. Charney, who is dean of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and a world expert in the neurobiology and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, shared his story recently with Big Think:

"Jim Stockdale was a heroic POW, and the Stockdale Paradox really defines the optimism that is most important in becoming a resilient person and that is, when you're faced with a challenge or a trauma, you look at that challenge objectively. You might make the assessment, 'I'm in really big trouble.' You have a realistic assessment of what you're facing. On the other hand, you have the attitude and the confidence to say, 'But I will prevail. I'm in a tough spot, but I will prevail.' That is the optimism that relates to resilience."

While citizens of wealthier nations tend to have less faith in God, the United States is an exception. And our collective belief in the universe's moral order helps contribute to our sense that virtue will be rewarded and that Earthly setbacks are temporary. 

"Americans are more likely than their counterparts in economically advanced nations to deem religion very important. More than half (54%) of Americans said religion was very important in their lives, much higher than the share of people in Canada (24%), Australia (21%), and Germany (21%), the next three wealthiest economies we surveyed from 2011 through 2013."

Previous studies have indicated that individuals who attend weekly religious services are more optimistic in their general outlook and tend to have a stronger social support group as well. Those are obviously important factors when it comes to making it through some of life's stormy weather.  

Read more at Vox.

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