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Higher earnings not linked to happiness
January 4, 2018, 4:27 pm
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People who earn more money tend to experience more positive emotions focused on themselves, while people who earn less take greater pleasure in their relationships and ability to connect with others. While higher income has many benefits, including improved health and life satisfaction, it was not associated with greater happiness, says a new research published by the American Psychological Association. Most people tend to think of money as some kind of unmitigated good, but our research suggests that this may not actually be the case. In many ways, money does not necessarily buy you happiness. The researchers used a survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,519 people.

Participants were asked about their household income and answered a series of questions designed to measure their tendency to experience seven distinct emotions that are considered to make up the core of happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love and pride. For example, to measure compassion, participants rated their agreement with various statements, including, “Nurturing others gives me a warm feeling inside.” Participants at the higher end of the socioeconomic spectrum reported a greater tendency to experience emotions that focused on themselves, specifically, contentment and pride (as well as amusement).

Individuals at the lower end of the income scale were more likely to experience emotions that focus on other people, namely compassion and love. Poorer individuals also reported experiencing more awe and beauty in the world around them. There was no apparent difference for ‘enthusiasm’, according to the researchers.

The findings indicate that wealth is not unequivocally associated with happiness. Wealthier individuals may find greater positivity in their accomplishments, status and individual achievements, less wealthy individuals seem to find more positivity and happiness in their relationships, their ability to care for and connect with others. The researchers believe these differences may stem from higher-income individuals’ desire for independence and self-sufficiency, while the other-oriented emotions help lower-income individuals to form more interdependent bonds with others to help cope with their more threatening environments. These findings suggest that lower-income individuals have devised ways to cope, to find meaning, joy and happiness in their lives despite their relatively less favorable financial circumstances.

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