The price of happiness

Does happiness rise with income? In one of the more scientific attempts to answer that question, researchers from Princeton have put a price on happiness. It’s about $75,000 in income a year.

They found that not having enough money definitely causes emotional pain and unhappiness. But, after reaching an income of about $75,000 per year, money can’t buy happiness. More money can, however, help people view their lives as successful or better.

The study found that people’s evaluations of their lives improved steadily with annual income. But the quality of their everyday experiences — their feelings — did not improve above an income of $75,000 a year. As income decreased from $75,000, people reported decreasing happiness and increasing sadness, as well as stress. The study found that being divorced, being sick and other painful experiences have worse effects on a poor person than on a wealthier one.

“More money does not necessarily buy more happiness, but less money is associated with emotional pain,” the authors wrote. “Perhaps $75,000 is a threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure.”

What does it take to be happy? About $75,000, Chicago Tribune

So earning more than $75,000 (which is currently worth less than £50,000) per year does not improve the quality of one’s day to day feelings. Yet the study notes that higher incomes are correlated with better self-evaluations, which only shows how self-deluded and money-obsessed Americans are.

I find it interesting that the only genuine benefit of higher incomes, according to the study, is their ability to mitigate the pain of sickness, divorce and other unpleasant experiences. I wonder if this also applies in societies that provide communal “safety nets” that perform just such a mitigating function.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  

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