What is the relationship between money and happiness? If you had more money, would you be happier? Researchers have studied these and related questions for years. What have we learned?
Boyce, Daly, Hounkpatin, and Wood published an interesting article on this subject in the April 2017 issue of Psychological Science. While the focus of their contribution was on clarifying previous research on spending and personality, their discussion included insights from multiple studies. Here are some highlights I gleaned from their article:
- Studies indicate a weak relationship between happiness and money
- A possible reason for the weak relationship is “because people do not spend their money wisely” (p. 544).
- Money spent on experiences is more likely to increase happiness than money spent on possessions.
- Money spent on other people is more likely to increase happiness than money spent on one’s self.
- “Materialism is associated with less happiness” (p. 545).
- “Attempting to spend one’s way to happiness would ‘buy’ so little well-being as to be largely irrelevant to people’s lives” (p. 545).
- Situations where money affects well-being: poverty, indebtedness, losing income.
- Strong predictors of happiness: relationships, stable employment, mental and physical health
- People who tend to be moody and have negative feelings (neuroticism) tend to be less happy.
- People who tend to be outgoing (extraversion) tend to be happier.
1. Research on what makes us happy is important. Experiences over possessions. Relationships. Spending on others. I have had a wonderful Christmas season with friends and family. It was not about gifts received. It was about being with people dear to me and also doing for others.
2. The “pursuit of happiness” is a marvelous phrase. Who “pursues” happiness? Who just lets life unfold? There is an intentionality inherent to this phrase. And how we pursue happiness may change. We may find moments of wonder, joy, and yes happiness, even in dire circumstances.
3. How does this affect us in the workplace? I suggest two types of happiness. One is trait-happiness. Some people just tend to be happier. The other is state-happiness, the joy that is more temporary and situation-specific. As leaders and colleagues, we can affect state-happiness by how we interact with each other and support each other. And do not forget to celebrate small victories that are meaningful shared experiences.
Boyce, C. J., Daly, M., Hounkpatin, H. O., Wood, A. M. (2017). Money may buy happiness, but often so little that it doesn’t matter. Psychological Science, 28(4), 544-546.
Myers, D. G., & Diener, E. (1995). Who is happy? Psychological Science, 6 (1), 10-19.
My image, "Confederation Bridge at Sunset."
© John Ballard, PhD, 2017. All rights reserved.
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