Study: Happy youngsters more likely to grow into wealthy adults

The first in-depth investigation of whether youthful happiness leads to greater wealth in later life reveals that, even allowing for other influences, happy adolescents are likely to earn more money as adults.

Dr Jan-Emmanuel De Neve (UCL Political Science) and Professor Andrew Oswald (University of Warwick) analysed data from 15,000 adolescents and in the USA, finding that those who report higher 'positive affect', which is a technical measure of happiness, or higher '' grow up to earn significantly higher levels of income later in life.

Their study found that happy individuals' greater wealth is due, in part, to the fact that happy people are more likely to get a degree, find work, and get promoted quicker than their gloomier counterparts.

And greater happiness has a big : the study shows, for example, that a one-point increase in life satisfaction (on a scale of 5) at the age of 22 is associated with almost $2,000 higher earnings per annum at the age of 29. This is on top of other influences on incomes.

The researchers paid to instances of siblings in the data, demonstrating that even in children growing up in the same family, happier youngsters tend to go on to earn higher levels of income. Their results are robust to the inclusion of other important factors such as education, , , IQ, self-esteem, and current happiness.

The researchers also studied how happiness may influence income. Mediation tests reveal a direct effect as well as indirect effects that carry the influence from happiness to income. Significant mediating pathways include obtaining a degree and a job, higher degrees of optimism and , and less neuroticism.

Dr De Neve said: "These findings have important implications for academics, policy makers, and the general public.

"For academics they reveal the strong possibility for reverse causality between income and happiness – a relationship that most have assumed unidirectional and causal. For policy makers, they highlight the importance of promoting general well-being (GWB), not just because happiness is what the general population aspires to (instead of GDP) but also for its economic impact.

"Perhaps most importantly, for the general public – and parents in particular – these findings show that the emotional well-being of children and adolescents is key to their future success, yet another reason to ensure we create emotionally healthy home environments."

More information: The paper, "Estimating the influence of life satisfaction and positive affect on later income using sibling fixed effects", is published in the 19 November edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Related Stories

UK youth are happy after all?

date Mar 02, 2011

As part of the study, which will follow 40,000 UK households over a number of years more than 2,000 young people aged between 10 to 15 years have been asked how satisfied they are with their lives. The findings indicate ...

Targeted health support needed for those with lower IQs

date Sep 27, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Targeted health support is necessary for people with lower IQs according to new research which shows that they are unhappier and more likely to have poorer health than people with higher ...

Recommended for you

The new normal? Addressing gun violence in America

date 17 hours ago

Article Spotlight features summaries written in collaboration with authors of recently published articles by the Journals Program of the American Psychological Association. The articles are nominated by the editors as noteworthy ...

Demi Lovato gets vocal about mental illness

date 20 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Demi Lovato huddled in the back of her tour bus, eyes wet with tears as she watched a horde of fans streaming into the venue where she was about to play.

Acquiring 'perfect' pitch may be possible for some adults

date 20 hours ago

If you're a musician, this sounds too good to be true: University of Chicago psychologists have been able to train some adults to develop the prized musical ability of absolute pitch, and the training's effects ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.