We’ve all heard the competing clichés about money being unable to fulfil your emotional needs vs preferring to cry in a Rolls-Royce over giggling on a push bike. Outside of these folksy sentiments, Lady Science has actually come through with some hard metrics to provide answers surrounding the much-pondered question: can money buy happiness?
At the risk of being reductive, yes. Enough of the green stuff – along with other crucial factors such as healthy relationships, the right lifestyle, etc. – can kickstart our stupid little brains to produce a few crumbs of serotonin. And contrary to previous studies which claimed happiness plateaus after you begin taking home $75,000 a year (or $97,000 in AUD), new research indicates that happiness only trends upwards the more you earn.
“[The $75,000 a year] finding has been the focus of substantial attention from researchers and the general public, yet is based on a dataset with a measure of experienced well-being that may or may not be indicative of actual emotional experience (retrospective, dichotomous reports),” says Matthew Killingsworth – PhD, senior fellow, and “happiness researcher” at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
“Here, over one million real-time reports of experienced well-being from a large US sample show evidence that experienced well-being rises linearly with log income, with an equally steep slope above $80,000 as below it.”
“This suggests that higher incomes may still have potential to improve people’s day-to-day well-being, rather than having already reached a plateau for many people in wealthy countries.”
Happiness, in this case, has been classified in two forms of well-being: how candidates felt when the moments of life in question were occurring right there and then (experienced well-being), and how candidates evaluated moments of life in retrospect (evaluative well-being). Sifting through data sourced from 1,725,994 experience-sampling surveys submitted by 33,391 employed adults, there was zero evidence an income threshold such as the one purported around the $75,000/year mark existed. General moods and day-to-day satisfaction only increased.
It only stands to reason. While money doesn’t buy you happiness wholesale, it does infiltrate through various avenues. Knowing your bills are paid will relieve the tensions from your shoulders and aches from heads. Going out to eat without calculating whether an extra appetiser will leave you in financial ruin makes it a little easier to breathe. Plus, having some leftover cash to treat the ones you love to what they truly deserve is an unbeatable feeling.
So we’ve established there’s no upper limits to boosting your happiness with money. But whereabouts is the baseline figure everyone’s chasing around the world? Here’s what the Gallup World Poll discovered about the “ideal salary” after surveying 1.7 million individuals from 164 countries (broken down by geographical regions + in USD):
Can Money Buy Happiness & How Much Do You Need? (According to Gallup World Poll)
- Global – $95,000 ($60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being)
- Western Europe / Scandinavia – $100,000 ($50,000 for emotional well-being)
- Eastern Europe / Balkans – $45,000 ($35,000 for emotional well-being)
- Australia / New Zealand – $125,000 ($50,000 for emotional well-being)
- Southeast Asia – $70,000 (N/A)
- East Asia – $110,000 ($50,000 to $60,000 for emotional well-being)
- Latin America / Caribbean – $35,000 ($30,000 for emotional well-being)
- Northern America – $105,000 ($65,000 to $95,000 for emotional well-being)
- Middle East / North Africa – $115,000 ($110,000 to $125,000 for emotional well-being)
- Sub-Saharan Africa – $40,000 ($35,000 to $50,000 for emotional well-being)
Men: $90,000 ($60,000 to $65,000 for emotional well-being)
Women: $100,000 ($55,000 to $65,000 for emotional well-being)
Low education: $70,000 ($35,000 to $50,000 for emotional well-being)
Moderate education: $85,000 ($60,000 to $65,000 for emotional well-being)
High education: $115,000 ($70,000 to $80,000 for emotional well-being)
Check out the original study – ‘Experienced well-being rises with income even above $75,000 per year’ by Matthew A. Killingsworth – via the link here.