Wellbeing: Can money buy happiness?

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-1125_our_values_ten_dollar_money_rose.jpgORIGAMI ROSE BLOSSOM: This rose was folded, using $10 bills, by an origami artist in 2010. Image in public domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.Would more money make you happier? Would it improve your expectations of the quality of your life five years from now, moving you up the ladder of wellbeing we discussed yesterday?

There’s good research on these questions, provided by an analysis of Gallup survey data on wellbeing. Two psychologists, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Angust Deaton, considered 450,000 responses to Gallup’s questions about emotional wellbeing and life evaluation. Emotional wellbeing refers to how a person felt a day before the survey (stressed, happy, angry, etc.). Life evaluation refers to the ladder scale we discussed yesterday—which rung your life is on today and which rung you expect to be on in five years. They published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Here’s what they found out: More money does indeed buy a more positive evaluation of one’s life. People steadily move up the ladder as their incomes improve. Even wealthy people experience this positive effect.

Emotional wellbeing—that is, how you felt the day before the survey—also improves as income rises. But more important factors in your daily emotional life are your health, loneliness, smoking, care giving, and so forth. And, while emotional wellbeing rises with income, it hits a ceiling at $75,000 in annual income. After this figure, people don’t report improvements in their daily emotional wellbeing. The authors conclude that “high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.”

Have changes in income affected your life satisfaction?

Have these changes influenced your emotional wellbeing?

Can money buy happiness after all?


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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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