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Can Money Bring Happiness?

In modern times, with economic development, the question if money brings happiness is a matter of psychological well-being rather than empty theorizing. Numerous stories from culture and history show that money is not a key that opens the door to happiness, peace, and harmony as many people wish to consider. At the same time, people who are seriously limited in their income are not considered happy as well as their life is full of work, saving money, and psychological limitations. Still, all these ideas are based on folklore and ideas as we are used to perceiving them. This paper aims to dig deeper into psychology and science to find objective proofs that money can or cannot bring happiness. 

Scientific searches on whether money brings happiness and discussions on this topic started in 2010 when Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton published their research. It was widely analyzed and described in major articles as it discovered a connection between the income of a person and their feeling of happiness. After analyzing 450,000 responses, authors came to the conclusion that with raise in log income, evaluation of life also increases. A similar trend can be observed concerning emotional well-being; however, this scale stops rising and even decreases if log income is higher than $75,000. Hence, money brings happiness, but too much money does the opposite. 

The idea of Kahneman and Deaton was so popular that it was accepted with almost no criticism until 2021 when another major study on this topic emerged. Its results were similar to those published before with a serious difference: there was no serious downgrade in emotional well-being if income reached $75,000. Basically, the study has not found any point at which money could stop bringing happiness. The higher the income of the person was, the more day-to-day satisfaction this person had. So, it seems that money indeed can bring happiness. 

These two studies were not the only ones that attempted to define the correlation between money and happiness. The majority of studies succeeded as almost all of them reported a direct connection between income and evaluative well-being. However, their object of research focused on how people perceive themselves as happy but not happy as they actually are. If to limit research only to this variable, it appears that regardless of the actual situation, rich people consider themselves happier than those with lower income. So even if the person is not actually happy, they are still happy enough to consider their life satisfactory and fulfilling.

Examining the level of happiness (either evaluated or actual) seems like a tool for finding an answer to the question of money and happiness. However, another side of happiness is also worth taking a look. If money brings happiness, and a lot of money brings a lot of happiness, this rule should work both ways. So, it would be logical to assume that people with low income have more mental problems in their life, facing anxiety or depression more often that people with higher income. The 2020 study confirms this idea: people with low income tend to face anxiety and depression from 1,5 to 3 times more often than people with high income. Moreover, this effect works in a circle: people with low income face more psychological issues and diseases, while people with psychological issues have less ability to work and make money, staying poor. 

While the majority of studies focused on the correlation between constant income and feelings of happiness or depression, a study by Sareen also researched what changes when a person faces a sudden loss of income. In such a case, one faces not only the feeling of depression but also starts having suicidal thoughts. In terms of suicidal thoughts, they were also found to be connected with low income: those who were limited in funds tended to think more about suicide than those who did not face such problems. Studies mentioned above prove that money does not only bring happiness but also eliminates negative states and emotions from people’s lives.

Such a tendency is easy to understand: money opens the door to comfortable living, making many problems impossible or not serious enough to consider. With money, people have access to good education and healthcare system, high-quality food, sports, and entertainment. While people with low income are focused on finding money for a living, those that do not have such problems spend this time enjoying their lives. They have enough money to take care of their physical and mental health, delegate work that they do not like doing, and experience many positive emotions through new events and adventures in their lives. As one of the studies proves, happiness is rather a sum of positive emotions and experiences rather than one serious event that brings satisfaction, so the more positive events take place in one’s life, the happier this person feels. That is why the correlation between money and happiness is not only obvious but also scientifically proven.

It may be an uncomfortable fact but money indeed brings happiness. Of course, happiness does not depend on the level of income only: one can be truly happy with low income, while someone can be lonely despite the millions of dollars they have. However, science confirms that it is much easier to be happy when you have money than when you don’t. 



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