Does Money Buy Happiness?

Science isn't so sure

Does money buy happiness? Although it has always been the subject of popular songs, movies and works of literature, the money-happiness debate has actually been put against scientific testing. People assume that those with money are better off, and that money makes them happier, perhaps because they can buy more items and experiences than others.

However, science is suggesting this isn’t exactly the case. Recently, studies have shown that, since WWII, people have steadily earned more, but in the U.S. and other countries, individuals generally haven’t reported higher rates of happiness, according to Newsweek. Overall, this suggests the Beatles were right: "Money can’t buy me love," or happiness, for that matter.


One of the reasons for the studies’ findings is choice. According to Newsweek, people have typically equated money with happiness because money means more choices. But an overabundance of choices can actually be more frustrating than exciting. Because of this, the question, "are rich people happier?" is complex. A recent study showed that multi-millionaires rated their happiness at about an average level — 5.8 out of 10 — according to Newsweek. It is speculated that their ability to make many choices is actually causing them a tremendous deal of frustration.

Individual wealth

Although economic improvements don’t equal significant improvements in happiness overall, wealth and happiness may still be related on an individual level. According to Newsweek, studies did find that money, in a sense, bought happiness when it helped drag people out of poverty into a more comfortable lifestyle. Based on these studies, it seems safe to conclude that money causes stress in excess, whether there is too much or there is too little! It is not the likely the money but the change in situation that causes happiness in this group.

People’s perceptions

Just because research has shown that money likely does not buy happiness, that doesn’t mean people believe it. As more and more fashions, technological toys and luxury items are developed, more and more individuals want them. In fact, a recent study conducted by Lara Aknin and reported by the British Psychological Society showed that, when surveyed, people tended to think money equated happiness. Most people tested seemed to think individuals with lower incomes were much more unhappy than was actually the case. However, the British Psychological Society also stated that these same individuals guessed millionaires’ happiness levels quite accurately. This suggests that it may be perception rather than money itself that establishes the link between wealth and happiness.

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