Money does bring happiness, but “if you’re miserable it won’t help you,” according to a study

Can money buy happiness? It is a recurring question that has been with us since we know its value. American researchers Matthew A. Killingsworth, Daniel Kahneman and Barbara Mellers wanted to find an answer in a study for the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And they rediscovered that money it does make you happy but there is a limit.

“For most people, higher income is associated with greater happiness,” Killingsworth explains in statements to the magazine Penn Today from the University of Pennsylvania. “The exception is financially well off but unhappy people. For example, if you’re rich and miserable, more money won’t help you“adds the renowned psychologist.

In recent years, hand in hand with scientific knowledge, a certain consensus has been generated that more money does make people happy. This confirms the Easterlin’s Paradox of the economics of happiness, which states that “having a low income increases the perception of unhappiness, but a high income does not guarantee maximum happiness.

[Este es el “salario de la felicidad” según la ciencia: cuánto dinero deberías ganar al año]

However, until now there were some doubts about when it ceased to be a determining factor to become something banal. The results of this research only reaffirm the correlation between money and happiness. And, at the same time, establish a household income limit from which it stagnates: $100,000 per year.

An antagonistic collaboration

Kahneman and Killingsworth had already separately explored this question. The first, already in 2010, in collaboration with his colleague and Nobel Prize winner in Economics Angus Deaton, had discovered that daily happiness increased as annual income increased, but above $75,000 it stagnated.

A year ago, Killingsworth obtained some results that refuted Kahneman’s thesis: found that happiness increased steadily with income above $75,000.

This scientific joust was not resolved with a mutual repudiation, but they decided join forces, in what is known in the world as antagonistic collaboration. Thus, they set out to discover how much one had to earn so that money ceased to be a condition for well-being. And they chose Barbara Mellers as mediator.

“In general, [la investigación] suggests that for most people, more income is associated with greater happiness,” says Killingsworth in Penn Today. However, the relationship becomes more complex, revealing that within this general trend, happiness stops increasing after $100,000 and stabilizes.

[Ésta es la razón por la que somos cada vez más infelices (y puedes evitarla)]

To address this tricky question, the three researchers started a simple hypothesis: the existence of a happy majority and an unhappy minority. For the first group they thought that happiness would increase as more money came in, while for the second the same thing happened, but there would be a certain threshold after which it would stop increasing.

However, Killingsworth adds that for emotional well-being Money is not everything. And he subscribes that “money is only one of the many determining factors of happiness. money is not the secretbut it can probably help a bit,” he says.

They are not the only ones

[Maestros de la felicidad: la misión de la filosofía]

After all, money has a determining meaning in everyday life: it is the main means of sustaining human beings. However, it is not a universal perceptionbut the importance given to money also has to do with culture.

An investigation carried out by Paul Brain and Renata Bongiorno, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, asked almost 8,000 people from 33 countries on 6 continents how much money do you think you would need to live your ideal life. And they gave options from 10,000 euros to 100,000 million euros.

In 86% of the countries surveyed, the majority of people opted for the €10 million, approximately, as a figure they need to be happy. In some countries it reached a million euros.

This is where cultural differences come into play. According to the data of the study, published in June 2022 in the journal Nature Sustainability, 32% of Americans chose the 100,000 million euros, and 39% in Indonesia, but in China and Russia only 8% did..

In all countries there were people who chose the maximum option, but they represented a minority. This demonstrates that there are not so many people in the world with unlimited needs.

happiness and money

[“El dinero da la felicidad”]

when we think of The recipe of happinessThe first thing that might come to mind is the famous Maslow pyramid or hierarchy of human needs.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow in his work A theory on human motivation (1943) outlined a hierarchical list of human needs, where the first link is occupied by self-realization. Most of the elements that make up the base of the pyramid are obtained with money.

But despite its popularity, it was merely a theory, long ignored by the scientific community. To add empirical value to Maslow’s postulates, University of Illinois psychologist and Gallup Organization senior scientist Ed Diener helped design the Gallup World Poll.

This historical study measures people’s opinions and attitudes on a wide range of social, political and economic issues, including happiness.

measure happiness

Even today the data continues to be updated and is even analyzed to prepare reports such as the Global Happiness Index. This document, published annually by the UN, measures happiness in 157 countries, based on various factors, such as GDP per capita. Normally, the countries of northern Europe tend to top the list.

Diener reflected the results of said survey —with data from 60,865 participants from 123 countries between 2005 and 2010— in the book Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Wiley Blackwell, 2008). Respondents answered questions about six needs that closely resemble those of Maslow’s model: basic needs (food, shelter), safety, social needs (love, support), respect, mastery, and autonomy.

The results were mixed, but it was found that as Maslow rightly theorized, the needs described had a universal character, but its order and interdependence were not very clear.

“Although the most basic needs receive more attention when they are not had, it is not necessary to satisfy them to obtain benefits [de las demás]”, settled Diener in 2011 in the magazine The Atlantic.

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