When Americans Are Happiest

What people are doing when they are happy and not, from age 20 to 70.

We saw that life satisfaction changes with age, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the same survey, people were also asked about their happiness throughout the day when they ate, traveled, watched television, took care of kids, and other activities.

People reported happiness on a scale from 0 to 6, where 0 was not happy at all and 6 was very happy. The animation above shows the average happiness for the fifty most common activities. It runs from age 20 to 70.

Work, as you might imagine, sticks around the bottom of the range; eating and drinking lingers around the middle and the top; and socializing sticks around the top. The smaller circles show more variation over time, as kids and grandkids enter the picture and retirement kicks in.


The data comes from the well-being module of the 2021 American Time Use Survey. I downloaded microdata via IPUMS. I made the animation with R.

Become a member. Support an independent site. Make great charts.

See What You Get

Learn to Visualize Data See All →

How to Make Dot Timelines in R

For when you want to show the occurrence of events over time.

How to Make a Graph in Adobe Illustrator

You can use the vector-based software normally reserved for designers and artists to make and edit charts.

How to Animate Transitions Between Multiple Charts

Animated transitioning between chart types can add depth to your data display. Find out how to achieve this effect using JavaScript and D3.js.

How to Untangle a Spaghetti Line Chart (with R Examples)

Put multiple time series lines on the same plot, and you quickly end up with a mess. Here are practical ways to clean it up.


Who is Older and Younger than You

Here’s a chart to show you how long you have until you start to feel your age.

Graphical perception – learn the fundamentals first

Before you dive into the advanced stuff – like just about everything in your life – you have to learn the fundamentals before you know when you can break the rules.

Reviving the Statistical Atlas of the United States with New Data

Due to budget cuts, there is no plan for an updated atlas. So I recreated the original 1870 Atlas using today’s publicly available data.

Cuisine Ingredients

What are the ingredients that make each cuisine? I looked at 40,000 recipes spanning 20 cuisines and 6,714 ingredients to see what makes food taste different.