Recent Research on Gratitude in America

Posted on by Thomas Smith

 How often, and in what circumstances, do people actually say thanks? The results reveal more evidence for a phenomenon sometimes called the gratitude gap—given how often they feel it, and how important they think it is, Americans do not express gratitude very often.

  • Almost half of people express gratitude on a daily basis to immediate family (spouses, children, parents—though elsewhere in the survey 63 percent indicated daily gratitude expression to spouses), and less than 15 percent express daily gratitude to friends or colleagues.
  • Bosses, regrettably, were placed the category of “never” being thanked by 35 percent of those polled.
  • Asked about everyday encounters, less than 50 percent said they would be “very likely” to thank salespeople that helped them, as well the postman, the cleaning staff etc. Only wait staff at nice restaurants surpassed this threshold, with 58 percent “very likely” to receive thanks. TSA screeners, at the other extreme, were only “very likely” to be thanked by 22 percent of people.
  • Asked about their children, people indicate expressing gratitude widely and often—a heartwarming and promising exception to the gratitude gap.

Who is grateful?

  • Women were more grateful than men on almost every measure.
  • People were least likely to express gratitude in workplaces…despite wishing to be thanked more often themselves at work.
  • Being religious was associated with greater feelings of gratitude.
  • 18-to-24 year olds express gratitude less often than any other age group, and are more likely to express gratitude for self-serving reasons.
  • Married people are more grateful—51 percent expressing gratitude on a regular basis compared to 35 percent of singles.

How does age affect gratitude?

To explore whether gratitude trends are changing, people were asked to rate their own gratitude over time.

  • On two different questions, 88 percent of those polled said that they were just, if not more, grateful today than they were 3,4, or 10 years ago.
  • 92 percent of people indicated that they have been feeling the same or more gratitude over the last few years.
  • When asked about “most people today” (e.g., not themselves), people said gratitude levels were declining; only 19 percent selected the option that most people today are “more likely to have an attitude of gratitude than 10 or 20 years ago.”
  • 60 percent thought that people are less likely to express gratitude today than 100 year ago.