Dunn E, et al. (2008). “Spending money on others promotes happiness”. SCIENCE 319, 21 March, p.1687-88
Can money buy happiness?
Can money buy happiness? The answer seems to be both “yes” and “no”, depending on what you do with it. When asked, “can money buy happiness?” most people nobly say “no” but secretly wouldn’t mind giving it a try. So can it?
Sophie Tucker, one of the most popular entertainers of the first half of the 20th century, once said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”
While it's tempting to think that more money would improve your happiness, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Studies indicate that once your basic needs are met - it's harder to be cheery when you're hungry and without shelter - increasing income doesn’t have much effect on people’s level of happiness.
What research has found
Before concluding that happiness can’t be bought, consider the findings of a fascinating study in which the researchers gave people money to spend - they had no problems finding subjects for this study!
The researchers found that spending money did actually cause a “long-term” spike in happiness, but only among those participants in the study who were instructed to spend the money on someone else. Those who were instructed to spend it on themselves reported no such lift. Interestingly, it didn’t matter whether they were given $5 or $20 to spend on someone else, the happiness return was the same.
So can money buy happiness? The answer seems to be both “yes” and “no”, depending on what you do with it.
Why not try a “happiness self-experiment” by setting aside $5 to spend on someone else. Give a small gift to a friend (or foe). Pay a strangers toll. Be creative!
Giving is a gift that can help you live more!