Does money make you happy?

Does money make you happy?

Joseph Darby

Survey proves that money does make you happier

A new survey has identified that rich people are much happier with their lives than those on middle and low incomes.

Many people could have guessed that without a poll! But the reason this survey is interesting, is because a widespread range of earlier studies have shown there's a happiness "saturation point" - the mark beyond which more money doesn't have much impact on your day-to-day mood. That means this new survey's first-of-its kind data on the one per cent shows that life satisfaction continues to rise with income through at least the US$500,000-a-year threshold.


In case you’re wondering, as the top one per cent is such a tiny subset of the population, public opinion surveys aren't usually capable of identifying their views. A typical survey with 1,000 respondents would include just 10 members of the top one per cent. This survey, by contrast, oversampled top earners to include 250 respondents from the wealthiest one per cent.

To be defined as ‘wealthy’ in this survey, a household needed an income of at least US$500,000 per year. The survey was conducted in America, and was a joint effort by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, NPR, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Income equates to satisfaction

Researchers tend to distinguish between two forms of well-being measurements: there's "happiness," which is an in-the-moment emotional state, and "life satisfaction," which is an assessment of how things are going over the long-term. These qualities are linked but can be at odds. For example, having children may bring parents a sense of overall life fulfilment, but can also bring minute-to-minute aggravation and unhappiness.

When it comes to life satisfaction, income matters. The survey found:

  • Ninety percent of adults in the top tier are completely or very satisfied with their lives.
  • In contrast, less than half of the poorest respondents expressed satisfaction with their lives, and two-thirds of middle-income earners said the same.
  • Perhaps most remarkably, the share of one-percenters expressing "dissatisfaction" with their lives is statistically indistinguishable from zero.

Hard work pays off

Even though the survey gathered a range of different responses and perspectives from the different groups, there was one area where agreement was universal: across all income groups hard work stands out as a “very important” factor for achieving economic success.

Money making you happy

Background doesn’t matter

A second area where most respondents agreed was that fewer than 40 percent of those surveyed thought matters such as, family income, neighbourhood and race play an essential or very important role in success and economic mobility. In other words, your background has no bearing on your future.

For the wealthy, trivial things no longer matter

Wealthy respondents appeared to concern themselves little with the everyday struggles of those with far fewer resources. For instance, among low-income households, in the past several years 30 per cent reported having difficulty paying for food. Among the top one per cent, nobody had the same issue.

More than half of the richest people said they did not believe it should be a priority for lawmakers to reduce income inequality.

The bottom line

It seems that money can make you happy. If you’re still striving and aren’t “there” yet, keep in mind that most people agree:

  1. Hard work pays off, and
  2. Background doesn’t matter!

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