Study finds money can make you happier, but there’s a limit

Brittany A. Roston - Jun 17, 2021, 2:06pm CDT
Study finds money can make you happier, but there’s a limit

The common saying goes, “Money can’t buy you happiness.” That may be a popularly known phrase, but it’s not necessarily a popular idea, with many people arguing that lack of money can cause a variety of issues that impact one’s happiness and, therefore, having more money would logically make a person feel happier. A new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science explored this debate, finding that money can, in fact, buy you happiness, but only to a certain extent.

Happiness is a vague term and may not mean the same thing to everyone. There are different ways to achieve happiness, including engaging in what is known as passive leisure activities like watching TV, as well as active leisure activities like painting or going out with friends. Happiness can be measured in two ways: the intensity with which you feel happiness and the frequency in which you experience this emotion.

According to the new study, people who have lower incomes are more likely to engage in passive leisure activities while people who have a higher income are more likely to engage in active leisure activities. This isn’t surprising as passive activities like watching TV don’t require much financially, but active activities like participating in a hobby usually come with a degree of cost.

A total of 394 participants were included in the study, which was followed by two additional studies to validate the results. The research found that there is a link between how much money a person makes and how frequently they experience moments of happiness. However, money wasn’t linked to the intensity of happiness experienced during these moments, noting a limit to how much one’s financial status may contribute to their sense of well-being.

According to the study, engaging in passive leisure activities may reduce how frequently a person experiences a sense of happiness, but it doesn’t reduce the intensity of the happiness experienced. Ultimately, the research finds that money can contribute to how happy a person is, but it only plays a role in the wider experiences of one’s life and how much satisfaction it brings them.


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