Science Says Money Can Buy Happiness, But Do We Buy It?

leonardo dicaprio

The old adage would have us believe money can’t buy happiness; that true happiness comes from within and has nothing to do with one’s wealth. But new research claims the opposite, finding money can, in fact, make us happier — as long as we earn over a certain amount.

Previous research showed happiness could be achieved as a result of income, but that the level of satisfaction would plateau at USD$75,000 a year (around AUD$96,721). Beyond that amount, satisfaction and a sense of security would increase, but joy? Not so much.

“Emotional wellbeing rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of $75,000. Low income exacerbates the emotional pain associated with such misfortunes as divorce, ill health, and being alone.

“We conclude that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional wellbeing.”

Now though, new research has debunked this theory, with its findings claiming happiness levels continue to climb the more you have in the bank.

“Past research has found that experienced wellbeing does not increase above incomes of $75,000/y. This finding has been the focus of substantial attention from researchers and the general public, yet is based on a dataset with a measure of experienced wellbeing that may or may not be indicative of actual emotional experience,” the recent research paper states.

With a sample of over 1.5 million reports out of the US (a much larger sample than the previous study), the scientists were able to conclude that wellbeing rises linearly with income, and that the rate of happiness was just as steep above USD$80,000 as below it.

“This suggests that higher incomes may still have potential to improve people’s day-to-day wellbeing, rather than having already reached a plateau for many people in wealthy countries.

“Higher incomes are associated with both feeling better day-to-day and being more satisfied with life overall.”

Basically, the study claims the more money we have, the happier we are. It’s easy to take this for face value, but we have to wonder about the caveats that would impact our real, genuine happiness levels. As we know, our personal relationships, lifestyle choices, mental health and careers have a huge impact on how ‘happy’ we feel.

Surely happiness is both personal and circumstantial, and while the security and opportunity money brings would undeniably contribute to a sense of satisfaction in life, we don’t need a study to know there are other, more meaningful ways to feel happy.

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