Thursday, 20 March 2008

More on Money and Happiness


No wonder Jo(e) Public is confused about money and happiness. Here's an article from the UK broadsheet, the Telegraph, also published today with the headline 'Money does not buy happiness'. This seems to conflict with what I wrote in this post....

So can money buy you happiness or not?

Well, even with a scientific subject like Positive Psychology, the answer is never as clear-cut as you might expect!

We're told that income has increased dramatically over the past 40 to 50 years, and that the increase in well-being hasn't kept pace, therefore we must be doing something wrong.

But they haven't mentioned the fact that it's normal for humans to adapt to most positive experiences, such that after a while they lose their edge. It's what we mean when we say the novelty has worn off. If you don't believe me, think back to the last time you got a pay rise and work out exactly how long it took you to get used to the extra cash.

Secondly, it's also the case that as our quality of life increases, so do our expectations. Fifty years ago not every household would have had a phone, a TV and a car. Today these items are considered basic items; one family might expect to own one if not several of them. So what we think we need to live a happy life increases too.

Thirdly, it has been suggested that the rise in income over the past fifty years (in the UK at least) hasn't been distributed equally, i.e. a very small proportion of people have become incredibly wealthy, whilst the vast majority of us have enjoyed far smaller increases or none at all.

The Telegraph article concludes by saying that the reason we're not as happy as we might expect is because we spend more time at work and less time doing the things we enjoy. Even that's contentious. Some studies suggest that in general in developed countries we actually have more leisure time than ever before. Therefore it's what we choose to do with our time that affects our happiness. Watching more and more TV, which seems to be a common leisure time trend in the West, is a sure-fire way to waste the time we could be using to do things which will make a difference to our well-being.


If you have any concrete examples of money buying happiness (as opposed to security or health for example) we'd like to hear about them.

Image: QuietLucid

1 comment:

Yang-May said...

There's been another survey about what a miserable lot we are in the UK, in spite of having everything to be grateful for - see http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/apr/08/socialtrends.socialsciences

The article says "despite being wealthier and healthier, a study of attitudes shows adults are not significantly happier with changes in their standard of living"