The Relationship Between Money and Happiness- Is it Real?

A world-wide study on money and happiness reveals essential truths about one’s life satisfaction! 

The biggest study of its kind, it questioned 136,839 people, ages 15 and older in both cities and remote villages from 132 countries.  The study was designed to represent 96% of the world’s population. 

 See the footnotes at the end of the post for links to the full articles with these stats and excerpts.

Can You Discern Happiness Apart from Money?

Researchers say that a main difficulty in past studies on “money and happiness” was that people generally are unable to differentiate between money and happiness.  When asked if they are happy, people evaluate their lives by comparing their income and possessions with other peoples.’  The new study discovered that there is a crucial difference between money’s affect on overall life satisfaction versus one’s day-to-day emotional state.

The key elements to “happiness” or day-to-day positive emotions such as enjoyment, smiling, laughing, were universally shown to result from:

-feeling respected
-being in control of your life (freedom to choose daily activities)
-having friends and family to rely on in an emergency
-working at a fulfilling job
-learning new things

Negative emotions on a day-to-day basis, such as sadness, depression or anger, were the result of lack in the above areas.

Money appears to affect one’s overall life satisfaction, but has much little to do with one’s day-to-day happiness.

The research results showed that life satisfaction was seen to be directly related to income, as money determined the meeting of basic needs such as food and shelter and what conveniences people owned.  Money, however, did not influence people’s emotions in a positive way. Ed Diener, the professor at the University of Illinois who led the study, said money makes one feel more satisfied than feel good. Instead, positive emotional feelings were clearly affected by one’s day to day life.

How does the final outcome relates to all of us?

It benefits us greatly to make mental note that our happiness is not determined by our money or social position, but by the choices we make to have daily activities that are meaningful to us with the people we love.  Barbara L. Fredrickson, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina summarize the study’s results:

The thing I think is exciting about this is money can make you feel better in a limited way.  But positive feelings like enjoyment and laughing can do a whole lot more for people. They can help people grow and learn and become a more resilient, better version of yourself.

(1) Massive Global Study Money/Happiness, by Rob Stein, Washington Post Staff Writer
(2) Money Boosts Life Satisfaction but Not Positive Feelings, by Bill Hendrick, Webmd
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