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U of U Researcher Suggests Money Just Might Buy You a Little Happiness

Too Little and Too Much Money Can Diminish Happiness

Money is definitely linked to happiness, but how much money it takes to be happy varies greatly around the world and there is a threshold beyond which more money doesn’t equal greater life satisfaction.

A new study on happiness found the average income globally for optimum life satisfaction is $95,000 for an individual. The study also found emotional well-being is achieved at a lower sum — $60,000 to $75,000 for an individual.

The lead author of the study is Andrew T. Jebb, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University. There were three co-authors, including Ed Diener, who has joint appointments at the University of Utah and University of Virginia. The study was published in Nature Human Behavior.

Jebb said the point at which money no longer changes your well-being has been debated, but the study establishes thresholds — and those thresholds are higher in wealthier regions.

“This could be because evaluations tend to be more influenced by the standards by which individuals compare themselves to over people,” Jebb said.

The analysis used data from the Gallup World Poll, which includes observations from more than 1.7 million people in 164 countries. Diener, who has studied happiness for more than 35 years, is a Gallup senior scientist.

“What we show here for the first time is that in some places increasing income after some point actually leads to decreases in life satisfaction,” Diener said. “We don’t yet know why this is — perhaps these people work so hard that they cannot enjoy life, or they become focused mostly on materialistic goals or whatever. We just don’t know.”

Diener said the findings may help individuals and governments understand that at a certain point more money doesn’t not necessarily lead to greater well-being.

“This helps individuals focus on the priorities in their lives — working hard enough to rise out of poverty can help, but after that the gains won’t be so large,” he said. “People might at that point start focusing a bit more on relationships and leisure and other rewarding activities besides earning more.”

For governments, there may be consideration that progressive taxation — which taxes wealthier people at higher rates — might not harm happiness, he said.

“Well-off people might be just as happy, and if the money is then used in productive ways to improve the society, everyone may be better off,” Diener said

Find the full study here.


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