Most people want and aim to be wealthy. But one of the key findings of happiness research is: Although more money delivers big increases in happiness when you are poor, each extra dollar makes less difference once your basic needs have been met. Having more income may not necessarily bring more happiness. Studies show that when incomes rise for everybody, well-being doesn’t change much. Surveys have found virtually the same level of happiness between the very rich Americans on the Forbes 400 and the Masai herdsman of East Africa.
Research shows that people in rich countries are not happier than those in poorer ones.
University of Illinois psychologist Edward Diener (who made the Masai discovery) has been studying what makes people happy for more than 25 years. One of his more compelling findings is that the wealthiest nations aren’t necessarily the happiest.
Diener, and many other social scientists, say that once people’s basic needs are met, an increase in income has little, if any, effect on their sense of well-being.
According to British economist Richard Layard, who has written one of the most celebrated works about this, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science (2005), growth in the rich countries since the 1950s has not contributed to more happiness.
After a national income of $20,000 a year, Layard says, “additional income is not associated with extra happiness”.
According to psychologist Oliver James, author of They F*** You Up, most people in the developed world were no happier than people were in the 1950s when they were less affluent.
“A typical 25-year-old today is between 3 and 10 times more likely to suffer major depression compared to the 1950s. It seems that once you reach a certain level of income, an annual salary of around £15,000, increasing affluence has no impact on whether you are likely to be happier. In fact, the more you earn, the less likely you are to be happy”, he cautions. ...