Money can’t buy you happiness

March 18th, 2009 - 11:44 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 18 (IANS) Financial security might not be enough to ensure happiness or satisfaction with one’s life, according to a study of the mental state of the modern American woman.
Women who concentrated much of their thinking on financial matters were much less likely to be happy with their lives, according to Talya Miron-Shatz, postdoctoral research fellow at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Contrary to expectations, many of those with such worries had plenty of money by conventional standards, she said, suggesting that there is more at play in obtaining peace of mind than simply having cash.

“Even if you are making a hundred grand a year, if you are constantly worried that you are going to get fired, that you are going to lose your health insurance or that you are simply not sure you are going to ‘make it’, you are not going to be happy,” Miron-Shatz said. Such concerns, she found, affected a wide variety of women at all income levels.

Conversely, those who didn’t fixate on finances like retirement savings, tuition for college or simply making ends meet, reported being the happiest of the group.

Miron-Shatz conducted two separate studies of a representative sample of nearly 1,000 American women of various ages and incomes. In one study, she showed that considerations of financial security were as important to the study subjects as their monetary assets.

She asked subjects in the second study to think about the future in an open-ended manner. Those who did so and mentioned financial concerns - retirement, college tuition, making ends meet and so on - were less satisfied with their lives, she found, than those who did not raise such concerns.

Psychologists have long sought to understand the connection between money and happiness. Though the popular conception has been that “money can’t buy happiness”, studies have shown that wealth can play a role in enhancing happiness.

Contributing to this complicated relationship is what Princeton psychology professor Daniel Kahneman has called the “satisfaction treadmill”.

In pioneering studies of human happiness, Kahneman has found that satisfaction does not necessarily increase in a corresponding amount with an improved financial status, said a Princeton release.

Miron-Shatz is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Kahneman, who has pioneered the integration of research about decision-making into economics and won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economic sciences. Miron-Shatz’s paper grew out of her work with Kahneman, who is her adviser.

The study was published in Judgment and Decision Making.

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