MONDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Money can help buy happiness
-- at least if you're bringing in about $75,000 a year, new
While happiness increases along with annual household incomes up
to about $75,000, beyond that, earning more money has no effect on
day-to-day contentment, according to the study.
But that doesn't mean you should give up trying to get that
promotion. While making more won't help your emotional state on any
given day, people who had household incomes above $75,000
were more apt to say they were satisfied overall with their
Those who made, say, $120,000 reported more satisfaction with
their lives and had a higher assessment of their life overall than
those who made less, while those who made $160,000 evaluated their
lives even better still.
"It's really important to recognize that the word 'happiness' covers a lot of ground," said study author Angus Deaton, a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. "There is your overall evaluation of how your life is going, while the other has to do more with emotional well-being at the moment. Higher incomes don't seem to have any effect on well-being after around $75,000, whereas your evaluation of your life keeps going up along with income."
The study is in the Sept. 6 early edition of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers used data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being
Index, which surveyed 450,000 Americans in 2008 and 2009 about
their household income, emotional state during the prior day and
overall feelings about their life and well-being.
Both measures of happiness are getting at something different,
Deaton noted. You might be feeling blue or unhappy one day because
your boss hassled you or you got a speeding ticket, but overall,
you think life is going pretty well.
Conversely, you might have felt happy, even joyful, on an outing
with your friends and family, but are overall not satisfied with
your life or the direction it's going.
So which measure of happiness matters more?
That's a philosophical question and perhaps one only the
individual can answer, Deaton said. "That's a really deep, hard
question. [Both measures] are important. But if you're unhappy now,
the fact your life may be going well doesn't make up for that."
Social scientists and psychologists have long grappled with how
to measure happiness, said James Maddux, a psychology professor at
George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., who was not involved with
The new study does a good job teasing apart the different
aspects of emotional well-being, including more immediate emotions
vs. bigger-picture life evaluations, Maddux said.
"This study is consistent with a lot of other studies on the relationship between income and happiness or overall life satisfaction," Maddux said. "What other studies have also shown is that money matters up to a point. But after a certain point, having additional money doesn't make people like their lives better or feel better about themselves on a day to day basis."
This holds true in other countries around the world as well, he
noted. Once per capita GDP rises to a point in which people are no
longer struggling to meet basic needs such as food, clothing,
shelter and healthcare, additional increases in overall national
wealth don't seem to make much of a difference in happiness, Maddux
Maddux urged America's beleaguered workers not to get too hung
up on the $75,000 figure. That income level can mean very different
things depending on how many people are in the family, what sorts
of financial responsibilities you have and where you live, he
"$75,000 is not a magical figure people need to achieve to be at their happiest," Maddux said. "The point is there is a threshold at which people probably are not going to be substantially happier if they keep making more money."
In 2008, average U.S household income was about $71,500, while
the median -- or the point at which half of incomes are higher and
half are lower -- was $52,000. The average skews higher than the
median because of a few very high incomes, Deaton explained.
While people with household incomes of more than $75,000
probably won't feel an enduring happiness boost if they are able to
earn more, losing substantial income would likely not be good for
their emotional well being, the study suggested. As income dropped,
respondents reported declining happiness and increased sadness and
And,according to the study, poverty exacerbated the emotional
impact of negative life events such as illness and divorce. Nor did
the poor get as much of a happiness boost from weekends as those
who were better-off, according to the researchers.
"Life is unfair for the poor in all sort of dimensions," Deaton said.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more
and other mental health conditions.
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