Can Money Buy Happiness? Psychologists propose a new approach to an old question
New to research appears in the review Social psychology and personality science suggests that money can buy at least one form of happiness, which psychologists call “frequency of happiness.”
The question of whether money can buy other forms of happiness remains open, but the researchers, led by Jon Jachimowicz of Harvard Business School, are quick to point out some of its limitations.
“We build on previous research that distinguishes between frequency and intensity of happiness to suggest that higher income is more consistently related to how often people experience happiness than to the intensity of each episode.” , say the researchers. “In particular, we show that only the frequency of happiness underlies the relationship between income and life satisfaction. “
This is an important point, given that there is so much mixed evidence on the relationship between money and happiness. For example, some to research found that higher income is related to people’s overall satisfaction with life, but not to instantaneous happiness. Other to research found that wealth explains a tiny part (less than 1%) of the variation in people’s happiness. Other research suggests that the relationship between money and happiness is much stronger.
In an effort to clarify a murky research picture, scientists recruited 1,290 American adults to participate in a short online study. Participants were asked to indicate, on average, how often they had experienced the emotion of happiness (“about once a month”, “about once a week”, “about once a day”, “about 2 to 3 times a day “or” more than 3 times a day “) as well as the intensity of each feeling of happiness (” very low “,” low “,” moderate “,” high “or” very high “) . Participants were then asked to report their annual household income and answer a few demographic questions.
The researchers found that income was associated with the frequency of happiness, but not with the intensity of happiness. Specifically, people with higher incomes experienced happiness more frequently than those with lower incomes.
The researchers then tried to find out why this association could exist. They hypothesized that it might have to do with the type of happiness-promoting leisure activities that people engage in. For example, previous research has shown that rich people engage in more active Hobbies like prayer, socialization, and exercise while non-wealthy people engage in more passive hobbies like watching TV, napping and resting. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that money is sometimes associated with high levels of happiness.
To test this idea, the researchers explored data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) 2012-2013. In this survey, more than 20,000 American adults were asked to report everything they had done the day before the survey. Participants were also asked to rate their emotions at different times of the day. This allowed researchers to calculate the frequency and intensity of happiness and match these values to the types of activities people engaged in.
They again found evidence linking income to frequency of happiness but not to intensity. They also found that people with low incomes engaged in more passive leisure activities, which partly explained why these people were less often happy.
The authors conclude: “Taken together, income can bring happiness not through more intensely happy experiences, but through more of them.