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Income and happiness – What’s the connection?

Income and happiness

Ever heard the saying “money doesn’t buy happiness” and wondered if it’s true?

It’s a question that has inspired many researchers to study the correlation between wealth and happiness in great depth. In 2010 it was determined in a notable research study that people’s happiness appeared to level out after they reached an income of $75,000 per year, however that theory has since been disproven by new research. 

Although it is agreed that one’s happiness is not influenced by a single factor, a recent body of research from Wharton Business School has strong evidence to suggest that money does bring about happiness, as a person’s quality of life continues to improve as their income increases, which does not cap out at a predetermined figure as previously suggested.

This is because money offers people freedom of choice, including what they do for their careers, where they live, activities they participate in, education opportunities, vacation options, what vehicle they drive, eating healthier food, keeping fit and affording a work life balance. Being financially secure also offers peace of mind, should a person become redundant or enter a period of hardship.

In this particular study of human happiness, 33,391 participants were measured over seven years to gain an understanding of their emotional well-being and whether or not they felt satisfied with their life direction and optimism for the future. The sample included people who were employed, between the ages of 18-65, who used an app on their mobile to answer questions about their emotions. 

Contrary to previous studies, this research surveyed participants daily, providing a more accurate picture of their happiness, as opposed to past studies which relied upon people’s memories about how they felt about the past. This may have affected the validity of the data, because memories change over time, and research suggests that we retell our stories in different ways depending on the attitude of the listener.

However, it’s important to note that research also suggests that whilst there is a positive connection between money and well-being, it is not the most important factor in determining one’s happiness. It has been found that people earning low incomes who are working in an occupation that brings them joy are happier overall. Other key sources of happiness which are considered more important than income include quality of relationships with family and friends, eating well and exercising regularly, pursuing hobbies, being compassionate, and practising gratitude.

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