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Study: Everyone in the world relates money to happiness

Melissa Kaplan Jul 1, 2010

You may think the deep psychological link between money and the pursuit of happiness is strictly the burden of a free-market society, but it turns out it isn’t just a capitalist’s conundrum. An extensive Gallup study of over 136,000 people in 132 different countries, meant to represent about 96 percent of the world’s population, found that when asked, “Are you happy?”, the first measuring stick people use is income. The poll is considered pivotal in happiness research for its in-depth look into how positive and negative emotions play into the definition.

More: Bhutan’s falling happiness index

Researchers gathered information about income, meeting basic physical needs and satisfying psychological ones. Respondents rated their lives on a scale from a low of zero to a high of 10, detailing whether they felt enjoyment and a range of other emotions, relationship to family and friends, access to education and whether they were able to do what they “do best”. And whether the person surveyed was a villager or an urbanite, the consensus was universal: Life satisfaction had much to do with income, according to researchers in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Although the correlation between income overall happiness is strong, the study’s look into specific emotional response to money proves it can only take you so far. Positive feelings are affected less by money and more by a person’s daily activities, according to Ed Diener, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois who led the study. “Yes, money makes you happy,” he says, “But it makes you more satisfied than it makes you feel good.”

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