Money Does Influence Happines, Proves Study. We Are Not Above This Moh Maaya!
I am not a materialistic person as such, you know. I once ditched the finale of a renowned star-studded fashion week to go have a quiet evening with my bestie, while we devoured red velvet cupcakes. In fact, I love dive bars just for their cool vibe. Okay, there’s nothing ‘cool’ per se about shady bars but it’s fun! However, I also like spending money on myself. I am a borderline shopping addict. Borderline mainly because I am poor and I have no interest in going into debt. Unfortunately, the things I like are expensive—like spas, beauty treatments, fabulous clothes, and luxury travel. So if these things make me happy, don’t you dare to tell me that money doesn’t influence a person’s happiness. If you have money, you can go take a vacation to deal with your sad life like the folks in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara did. I am really with Niharika NM on this in that money can buy happiness. Hers as well as mine.
So all those peeps who do overact, pretending to be above this moh maaya, how does it feel being in denial? Are you getting an Oscar for this brilliant performance? Shah Rukh Khan came to you for acting lessons? Rascals. Turns out, new research has observed that money does influence happiness with higher earners showing more satisfaction in their lives. They also observed this could be due to having an “increased sense of control over life.”
The study was published in the journal, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, and explored the link between money and well-being. “It’s one of the most studied questions in my field,” says Matthew Killingsworth, researcher and a senior fellow at Penn’s Wharton School who studies human happiness. He adds, “I’m very curious about it. Other scientists are curious about it. Laypeople are curious about it. It’s something everyone is navigating all the time.”
Killingsworth did extensive research collecting 1.7 million data points from more than 33,000 participants. He used a method called experience sampling for the study. “It tells us what’s actually happening in people’s real lives as they live them, in millions of moments as they work and chat and eat and watch TV,” Killingsworth revealed.
He created an app called Track Your Happiness which randomly checked in on the participants, asking them to rate how they felt at that point in the day ranging from “very bad” to “very good”. The participants were also asked how satisfied they felt in life. Apart from this, 12 specific feelings were accounted for, including five positives (confident, good, inspired, interested, and proud) and seven negatives (afraid, angry, bad, bored, sad, stressed, and upset).
Killingsworth explained, “This process provided repeated snapshots of people’s lives, which collectively gives us a composite image, a stop-motion movie of their lives. Scientists often talk about trying to get a representative sample of the population. I was trying to get a representative sample of the moments of people’s lives.”
People have this belief that money stops making you happy when you have lots of it. However, it’s not so black and white. “It’s a compelling possibility, the idea that money stops mattering above that point, at least for how people actually feel moment to moment,” he says. “But when I looked across a wide range of income levels, I found that all forms of well-being continued to rise with income. I don’t see any sort of kink in the curve, an inflexion point where money stops mattering. Instead, it keeps increasing,” Killingsworth adds.
Money gives you more freedom and control to live the kind of life you desire. You can choose to do something and not be a prisoner of your deteriorating bank balance. “When you have more money, you have more choices about how to live your life. You can likely see this in the pandemic. People living paycheck-to-paycheck who lose their job might need to take the first available job to stay afloat, even if it’s one they dislike. People with a financial cushion can wait for one that’s a better fit. Across decisions big and small, having more money gives a person more choices and a greater sense of autonomy,” he explains.
However, if you get money-obsessed and equate success with your income, life is going to be difficult. “Although money might be good for happiness, I found that people who equated money and success were less happy than those who didn’t. I also found that people who earned more money worked longer hours and felt more pressed for time,” he said.
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Money is important but it is not the only thing that brings happiness. So while we cannot pretend like money doesn’t matter, it is also not advisable to make it the sole focus of our lives. In the end, it’s a balance of different aspects that creates harmony in our lives. And with studies like this, Killingsworth hopes to explore conversations that aim to find the “equation for human happiness.” For me, it’s money + love + food.