Happiness is not only about money

July 5, 2010 by  

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Can money buy happiness? This is a question that many researchers would like to find the answer to. The most recent attempt is the first World Poll by Gallup that surveyed more than 136,000 people in 132 countries. The survey asked the respondents a wide range of question that included happiness, life satisfaction and income. The analysis of the report will be published in the July edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The Gallup World Poll was conducted between 2005 and 2006 using telephone interviews in developed and urbanized areas and door-to-door survey in rural and less developed areas. The 132 countries surveyed are inhabited by 96% of the world’s population, making the survey highly representative of the cultural, ethnic, socio-economic and political diversity worldwide. Thus, the so-called “first representative sample of planet earth” was used to study happiness.

The respondents were asked to complete a global life evaluation by rating their lives on a scale of 0 (worst) to 10 (best). They were also asked about recently experienced positive or negative emotions and what triggered them.

The study results confirmed results of previous studies which showed that life satisfaction is highly associated with economics and increases with income at the personal and national level. Positive feelings are also associated with income but to a lesser degree. The biggest determinants of positive feelings are “feeling respected, having autonomy and social support, and working at a fulfilling job.”

The results are quite intriguing and can be summarized as follows:

Life satisfaction and enjoyment of life are two components of happiness. Life satisfaction is more closely associated with income, while positive feelings also depend on other factors, such as feeling respected and connected to others.”

One of the Gallup Organization experts, University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology Ed Diener explains

“The public always wonders: Does money make you happy? This study shows that it all depends on how you define happiness, because if you look at life satisfaction, how you evaluate your life as a whole, you see a pretty strong correlation around the world between income and happiness. On the other hand it’s pretty shocking how small the correlation is with positive feelings and enjoying yourself.”

Recent research has also shown that positive feelings and health are interconnected. Negative emotions have been shown to increased risk for cardiovascular disease whereas positive emotions are good for the heart and can even slow down dementia.

When it comes to happiness, money seems to make a difference but it is not the only factor involved in order to have a happy life. Non-material things play a very important role in having positive feelings and enjoying life. In other words, happiness is not all about money.

Wealth and Happiness Across the World: Material Prosperity Predicts Life Evaluation, Whereas Psychosocial Prosperity Predicts Positive Feeling,” is available from the University of Illinois News Bureau.

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