Money CAN buy you happiness (and there’s no upper limit), study finds

Rob Waugh
·2 min read
Golden pound sterling signs falling on the blue background.
Money CAN buy you happiness, it turns out. (Getty)

“Whoever said money can't buy happiness didn't know where to shop,” wrote novelist Gertrude Stein – and a new study has shown she might have been right.

Researchers from Wharton People Analytics at the University of Pennsylvania found that not only can money make you happy, there is no upper limit.

In fact, contrary to previous research, there is no ‘plateau’ at which the importance of money to happiness begins to ‘level off’.

Previous research had suggested that people’s happiness stopped ‘going up’ at an income of $75,000 (£55,000) a year.

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Senior fellow Matthew Killingsworth, “It’s one of the most studied questions in my field. I’m very curious about it. Other scientists are curious about it. Laypeople are curious about it.

“It’s something everyone is navigating all the time.”

Killingsworth and his team collected 1.7 million data points from 33,000 participants, who recorded their feelings in daily life.

“It tells us what’s actually happening in people’s real lives as they live them, in millions of moments as they work and chat and eat and watch TV,” said Killingsworth.

“This process provided repeated snapshots of people’s lives, which collectively gives us a composite image, a stop-motion movie of their lives.”

“Scientists often talk about trying to get a representative sample of the population. I was trying to get a representative sample of the moments of people’s lives.”

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Killingsworth calculated the average level of well-being for each person – and its relation to their income.

He found that well-being continued to rise, even above the $75,000 mark.

Killingsworth said he believes that this reflects how increased income allows people a sense of control over their lives.

He added: “When you have more money, you have more choices about how to live your life. You can likely see this in the pandemic.

“People living paycheck to paycheck who lose their job might need to take the first available job to stay afloat, even if it’s one they dislike.

“People with a financial cushion can wait for one that’s a better fit. Across decisions big and small, having more money gives a person more choices and a greater sense of autonomy.”

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