Letters to the editor for 1 May 2013

Money & happiness

[Re: Proof, at least: The more money we earn, the happier we are, yesterday]

The positive relationship between income and happiness within a country has never been disputed by happiness researchers. Their claim has been that it is not income, as such, that makes you happy, but the social status that comes with it. Therefore, an across-the-board increase will not make anyone happier, as status is unchanged. In this sense, the second main finding of the paper cited is more interesting: a positive relationship between “aggregate national happiness” and GDP. That would really go against the received wisdom.

Kristian Niemietz

The research showing a positive correlation between money and happiness should be treated with extreme caution. Measures of happiness, unlike measures of wealth, are subjective and numerous studies have shown that happy people – with a positive outlook – tend to do better at work and are more likely to be appointed to better paid jobs. In some cases, therefore, being happy makes us money rather than the other way round. Also, it may be that a sense of achievement, rather than money in itself, makes richer people happier. It would be interesting to find out whether those who started with a little money and earned the bulk of their wealth are happier on average than those who inherited their money without any effort.

Peter Stanley

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