If It Makes You Happy

You: If I had all the money in the world I’d be happy.

Science: No you wouldn’t.

Purdue University and the University of Virginia have studied happiness and what gets us there, and find there’s a tipping point for wealth.

A group of researchers wanted to know how much money it actually takes to make someone happy, and found, on average, around $95,000 a year for life evaluation and between $60,000 and $75,000 for emotional well-being.

Not having enough money to meet basic needs impedes happiness due to stress, and the more money a person makes the happier they get – to a point. Upper middle-class folks are apparently the most pleased.  Even winning the lottery, an unlikely event that most people bet would increase their happiness level, often doesn’t.

“I would imagine you could pay off a lot of bills but if you’re naturally an unhappy person I don’t know that money will shift that too much,” says Dr. Ezemenari M. Obasi, Ph.D., a University of Houston professor, Associate Dean for Research, and Director of the HEALTH Research Institute.  He studies stress.  Happiness, he says, is cultural, derived more from relationships and broader values than material possessions that connote wealth.

“Money can provide a temporary band aid but I don’t know that it changes personality and value systems in a very deep and sustainable way,” Dr. Obasi suggests.  The Purdue/Virginia studies found that after a particular level of attainment many people find wealth accumulation can produce more stress than it relieves, and sets up individuals for a race to “keep up with the Joneses.”  Pressures to maintain stature can be more crippling than mediocrity.  “Typically when folks are unhappy they’re worried about what’s coming in the future or what’s beyond their control, as opposed to being in the moment and enjoying the day to day,” he says.

Dr. Obasi was not involved in the other university’s research.

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