The saying “money can’t buy happiness” has been around for so long that most of us take it to be true, but studies actually contradict it. The most famous study on the correlation between money and happiness was conducted in 2010 at Princeton University and it found that a higher income did equate to higher emotional well-being, but only up to an annual salary of $75,000 ($90,000 after inflation). The results weren’t exactly surprising: although money isn’t the only thing you need to be happy, it does provide a certain comfort because you don’t have financial stresses such as not being able to afford rent or not being able to pay for your children’s education.
According to this initial study, happiness “caps out” at $75,000 and, after that annual income is reached, money stops mattering. Some even said that if your income starts growing, you start having more problems and poorer mental health, hence the idea that millionaires are rather unhappy.
However, a new study begs to differ. Conducted by Matthew Killingsworth, a scientist and senior fellow at the Wharton Business School, the study revealed that money matters more than most of initially thought, and that there isn’t a plateau after which money stops mattering for mental health purposes.
Data for the study was collected from over 33,000 participants, who used an app called Track Your Happiness to submit thoughts about their life randomly throughout the day. After calculating the relationship between happiness and income, Killingsworth found that high earners had an increased sense of control and level of satisfaction over their lives and that there wasn’t an amount after which these levels started to drop. The findings of the study were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to the scientists, this happens because the more money one has, the more choices they can make in life. Not only do they not have to worry about being able to pay for basic expenses, but they can also travel, try different hobbies and careers, and ensure financial stability for their loved ones. The myth of the “sad and lonely rich person” isn’t grounded in reality either. Although there are misconceptions that affluent individuals can’t have long-term relationships due to their busy schedules, there are millionaire dating platforms where they can meet other millionaire singles who share the same lifestyle. This improves the quality of their romantic relationship and thus their overall happiness. Just because some high-profile breakups make the news, that doesn’t mean all affluent individuals have unfulfilling romantic lives.
So, does this mean that money is all that you need to be fulfilled in life? Probably not. According to researchers, it would be wrong to assume that money equals happiness and that people who have this mindset tend to be less pleased with their lives. Instead, money should be seen as a moderate determinant of happiness: it can solve many problems that would otherwise lower your mental health, but you still need to create meaningful connections, work in a field you love, and prioritize self-care.
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