iStig

Scientists Calculate How Much It Costs To Buy Happiness

In Interesting, News on June 12, 2007 at 6:20:25 pm

It is one of the most pondered questions of all time – can money buy happiness?

The answer, according to a study, is yes – but so can friendships and successful relationships.

Researchers have been trying to calculate what effect our finances and lifestyle have on our emotions.

Their main source was a survey of 10,000 Britons, who were asked to rate their level of happiness and answer questions on their wealth, health and social relations.

The team, from the University of London, then placed all these people on a “life satisfaction scale” of one (utterly miserable) to seven (euphoric).

Using the information they had collated, they could calculate how much extra money the average person would have to earn every year to move up from one point on the scale to another.

They also worked out how far life events and changing social relationships on their own could move someone up the satisfaction scale.
By comparing these two types of information, they were able to put a “price” on social and lifestyle factors. So, for example, they found that having excellent health was worth the equivalent of a £304,000-a-year pay rise in how happy it made you feel.

Marriage increases happiness levels by the same amount as earning an extra £54,000 a year, although, surprisingly, living together was worth more, at an extra £82,500. Meanwhile, chatting to your neighbours on a regular basis would make you as happy as getting a £40,000-a-year pay boost.

The scale also works in reverse, however, so that the grief of becoming widowed decreases your satisfaction-with life by the same amount as your salary dropping £200,000 a year.

Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee, one of the main researchers, said: “One of the things we wanted to find out was the answer to the age-old question – can money buy the greatest amount of happiness for us?”

What they found, he explained, was that the results showed the importance of social relationships.

“One potential explanation is that social activities tend to require our attention while they are being experienced, so that the joy derived from them lasts longer in our memory,” he said.

“Income, on the other hand, is mostly in the background.

“We don’t normally have to pay so much attention to the fact that we’ll be getting a pay packet at the end of the week or month, so the joy derived from income doesn’t last as long.”

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