Podcast By: Ology Research Group
Blog By: Maisha H. Okae*
Can money buy happiness? Many would agree that that certainly is the case!
However, our preliminary research has taught us that there are also economists, happiness researchers and psychologist survey data which shows that social forces have influenced the extent to which money can buy happiness. Some of these social forces can include increases in the number of hours worked, turnover in employment and perhaps even differences in marriage and divorce rates.
According to a 2001 article in the New York Times, between 1970 to 1999, survey results showed that the average American family received a 16% raise, however the percentage of people who identified as “very happy” dropped from 36% to 29%. The article also alludes to the fact that compared to the 1970’s, women are happier than men today because more women are in the workforce.
Psychologists, however, have stated that perception of happiness is based on self-evaluation, hence, when that perception shifts, it is difficult to quantify happiness from a definite standpoint and how it relates to money!
Money may appear to be a driving force for happiness, in certain situations. For instance, money can make a big difference to the poor, but a wealthier person may need a lot more money to shift their state of happiness. An article found on WebMD shows that people from developing countries are happier than those from developed countries. The US, which has the highest income, is the 16th when it comes to life satisfaction and the 26th for positive feelings!
The article also shows that money determines happiness, but, there is no statistical evidence that money buys happiness. It is hypothesized that you begin to be at a “happy level” when you are at an annual salary of $75,000. The attribution of money to happiness could be relative to the time, space and personal emotional standing at the time of the survey. We believe that one survey cannot be used across board to reflect every group and level of happiness, because there are different levels at which money affects relationship. That is not to say, that there are also differences in the purchasing power of $75,000 across state lines, and income can also be affected by number of people this income provides sustenance for, as an example.
Per the WebMD article, money can buy happiness indirectly since money is a means to engage in activities that could make you happy. However, this may not apply to developing countries! The study shows that the relationship between money and happiness depends on one’s perception of happiness; but, I think there’s much more to a happy life than just money. Positive feelings, self-esteem, low incidences of corruption, and quality of social relationships, can also make life more enjoyable. A higher income country does not necessarily mean it’s citizens will report higher happiness or positive feelings. On that same note, people from poor countries may not necessarily be unhappy. While there is no general prescription for happiness, and money is not a guarantee that people will be happy, the availability of money increases the probability of a person’s happiness since money helps one to meet needs. It is worthy to note that Leon Festinger, an American social psychologist who developed the cognitive dissonance theory, states that individuals tend to conform to their beliefs and opinion, but something changes when there is some level of disparity between attitudes and behavior, which alters self-perception – which surfaces the question, is “happiness” a completely subjective idea?
What do you think? Does money really buy happiness or do social forces influence the extent to which money can buy happiness or both. Is the experience of money and happiness, rather geographical, genetic, or perception based?
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*Maisha H. Okae is a Research Associate at Ology Research Group. She is presently a doctoral student, pursuing her PhD degree in the Social Sciences with an emphasis in Conflict Resolution studies. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in Diplomacy and Conflict Management.