For decades, the question of whether money can buy happiness has remained a subject of philosophical and scientific debate. However, two prominent researchers Daniel Kahneman and Matthew Killingsworth recently published a study that challenges the conventional wisdom that people are happier as they earn more money, but their joy levels out when their income hits $75,000.
In their joint study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Kahneman and Killingsworth surveyed 33,391 employed adults in the United States, aged 18-65, who reported a household income of at least $10,000 per year. The authors noted that they lacked substantial data for those earning over $500,000.
To measure the participant’s happiness, they were randomly asked via a smartphone app called Track Your Happiness to report on their feelings at various times of the day. The study reached two significant conclusions:
Firstly, the researchers found that happiness continues to increase with income even for those earning high ranges of income. The findings suggest that on average having more money can make many of us increasingly happier.
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Secondly, the study revealed that there is an “unhappy minority,” which comprises approximately 20 percent of the participants whose unhappiness does not decrease with rising income after a certain threshold. These individuals tend to experience negative emotions such as heartbreak, bereavement, or clinical depression that money cannot alleviate.
The researchers latest study overturned Kahneman’s initial 2010 research that found that “emotional well-being [also] rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of $75,000.” Killingsworth discovered that happiness does not plateau after $75,000 and experienced well-being can continue to rise with income well beyond $200,000.
Kahneman and Killingsworth acknowledged that money is not the only determinant of happiness but it can help to some extent. They also noted that happiness or emotional well-being is a changing daily scale for many people and that there are degrees of happiness and often a ceiling for happiness.
In conclusion, the researcher’s findings provide new insights into the relationship between money and happiness. While more money may increase happiness for many people, it may not alleviate the negative emotions of the “unhappy minority.” Therefore money is not the secret to happiness, but it can help to some extent.
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