LSE Study Finds Secret to Happiness

A study by the London School of Economics and Social Policy has found that money does make you happier, but only if you really think about it.

The research, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, found that earnings only affect happiness when financial concerns are at the forefront of your mind.

The findings are in contrast to the traditional view that individual well-being increases as we earn more money.

Findings were based on two tests which measured how a person's earnings and social relationships influenced their sense of well-being within different circumstances.

Each test saw the participant unknowingly "primed" to think about either financial issues - by for example, solving word puzzles relating to money, or "community" issues, such as their home-life, family or friendships.

The study found that when people were in a situation where they were more likely to think about financial issues, there was a direct link between participants' income and how satisfied they reported being with their life.

Conversely, when participants were primed to think about community or family issues before the self-reporting wellbeing test, their earnings were seen to have no effect upon their well-being.

 In a control test, where no particular issues was made relevant, money also had no effect on participants self-reported sense of well-being.

A participant's social relationships, on the other-hand, had a consistent effect on self-reported happiness.

Those with more links with friends and family were seen to be happier in all circumstances - whether they were primed to think first about money or community issues.

The findings coincide with recent news that the UK has fallen to 18th in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developments' (OECD) Better Life Index - a tool used to measure life satisfaction in developed countries.

Dr Ilka Gleibs, lecturer in social and organisational psychology at the LSE and coauthor, said

"Earning more money can make people feel better but only under the right circumstances. Strong friendships and family are much more consistent in providing people with feelings of well-being than higher earnings."

He added:

"If the UK government genuinely wants to promote the well-being of the population, and move up the OECD’s happiness league table, it would do well to initiate policies which help foster community relations. Economic growth is clearly vital for the country overall… but it is not necessarily the key to individual happiness."

The findings are interesting, especially in light of how many in the UK are targeted by sophisticated business marketing campaigns designed to instill "creative dissatisfaction."


Source: Unpacking the hedonic paradox: A dynamic analysis of the relationships between financial capital, social capital and life satisfaction

Image with thanks to Kamau Akabueze of Flickr (Creative Commons License)