Money Buys Happiness - but Only Up to a Certain Amount
In order to be happy, researchers say, you don’t need unlimited amounts of money.
“That might be surprising as what we see on TV and what advertisers tell us we need would indicate that there is no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness, but we now see there are some thresholds,” said Andrew T. Jebb, the lead author and doctoral student in Purdue Universitys’ Department of Psychological Sciences. “It’s been debated at what point does money no longer change your level of well-being. We found that the ideal income point is $95,000 for life evaluation and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being. Again, this amount is for individuals and would likely be higher for families.”
Emotional well-being, or feelings, is about one’s day-to-day emotions, such as feeling happy, excited, or sad and angry. Life evaluation, or life satisfaction, is an overall assessment of how one is doing and is likely more influenced by higher goals and comparisons to others.
“And there was substantial variation across world regions, with satiation occurring [at a higher point] in wealthier regions for life satisfaction,” Jebb said. “This could be because evaluations tend to be more influenced by the standards by which individuals compare themselves to other people.”
The research, published in Nature Human Behaviour, is based on data from the Gallup World Poll, which is a representative survey sample of more than 1.7 million individuals from 164 countries. The researchers’ estimates were averaged based on purchasing power and questions relating to life satisfaction and well-being. For reporting this study, the amounts are reported in U.S. dollars, and the data is per individual, not per family.
The study also found once the threshold was reached, further increases in income tended to be associated with reduced life satisfaction and a lower level of well-being. According to a news release from Purdue, this may be because money is important for meeting basic needs, purchasing conveniences, and maybe even loan repayments, but to a point. After the optimal point of needs is met, people may be driven by desires such as pursuing more material gains and engaging in social comparisons, which could, ironically, lower well-being.
“At this point they are asking themselves, ‘Overall, how am I doing?’ and ‘How do I compare to other people?'” Jebb said. “The small decline puts one’s level of well-being closer to individuals who make slightly lower incomes, perhaps due to the costs that come with the highest incomes. These findings speak to a broader issue of money and happiness across cultures. Money is only a part of what really makes us happy, and we’re learning more about the limits of money.”