Can Money Buy Happiness?
A new study has debunked the old notion that wealth can buy happiness. Although people who earn higher income may enjoy many benefits, wealth is not necessarily associated with greater happiness, the study says.
The new findings were confirmed by lead author Paul Piff, PhD, of the University of California, Irvine.
Piff said, “Higher income has many benefits, including improved health and life satisfaction, associated with greater happiness. After all, most people think of money as some kind of unmitigated good. But some recent research suggests that this may not actually be the case. In many ways, money does not necessarily buy you happiness.”
The research was published by the American Psychological Association.
Greater Positivity For Wealthy, Greater Happiness For Less Wealthy
The results of the study were based on the survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,519 people. Respondents were asked about their household income and answered a series of questions designed to measure their tendency to experience seven distinct emotions considered to make up the core of happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love and pride.
The key results showed that people who earn more money tend to experience more positive emotions focused on themselves, specifically, contentment and pride (as well as amusement). In contrast, people who earn less take greater pleasure in their relationships and ability to connect with others. They are more focused on others and more inclined to emotions such as love and compassion. Plus, individuals at the lower end of the income scale reported experiencing more awe and beauty in the world around them.
Piff said, “These findings indicate that wealth is not unequivocally associated with happiness. What seems to be the case is that your wealth predisposes you to different kinds of happiness. While wealthier individuals may find greater positivity in their accomplishments, status and individual achievements, less wealthy individuals seem to find more positivity and happiness in their relationships, their ability to care for and connect with others.”
Piff revealed a probable explanation for the differences. The researcher believes that richer people have more earnest desire for independence and self-sufficiency, while the other-oriented emotions help lower-income individuals form more interdependent bonds with others to help cope with their more threatening environments.
Piff said, “Wealth doesn’t guarantee you happiness, but it may predispose you to experiencing different forms of it – for example, whether you delight in yourself versus in your friends and relationships. These findings suggest that lower-income individuals have devised ways to cope, to find meaning, joy and happiness in their lives despite their relatively less favorable circumstances.”