Happiness comes cheap - even for millionaires

October 18, 2007

A bar of chocolate, a long soak in the bath, a snooze in the middle of the afternoon, a leisurely stroll in the park. These are the things that make us the most happy, according to new research from The University of Nottingham.

In a study commissioned by the National Lottery, Dr Richard Tunney of the University's School of Psychology found that it's the simple things in life that impact most positively on our sense of well being.

The study compared the 'happiness levels' of lottery jackpot winners with a control group, using a 'Satisfaction with Life Scale' developed by the University of Illinois. Respondents were asked how satisfied they were in relation to different elements of their life, their different mood states explored, how often they treated themselves and what form this took.

Surprisingly, it wasn't the flashy cars and diamond jewellery that upped the jackpot winners' happiness quotient. It was the listening to music, reading a book, or enjoying a bottle of wine with a takeaway that really made the difference.

Dr Tunney said: “Modern-day pressures take their toll on everyday happiness. As a result we try to make ourselves feel better and happier through personal rewards and treats. We've all heard the saying 'a little bit of what you fancy does you good', and treating yourself is the ideal way to keep spirits lifted when you're down in the dumps.

“As lottery jackpot winners are on the whole happier than non-winners — 95 per cent claim they are positive about their life compared to 71 per cent of people in the control group — we researched the treats they rewarded themselves with to see what could influence their mood state.”

The survey contrasted cost-free activities, such as walking and snoozing, with expensive ones like overseas holidays. It asked how frequently they might purchase 'staying in treats' — like a bottle of wine — and how often they bought themselves items like shoes, mobile phones and DVDs.

The research found that happy people — whether lottery jackpot winners or not — liked long baths, going swimming, playing games and enjoying their hobby. Those who described themselves as less happy didn't choose the cost-free indulgences. They rewarded themselves with CDs, cheap DVDs and inexpensive meals out instead.

“While buying sports cars, giving up work and going on exotic holidays is out of reach for most of us, there are small lessons we can learn from society's happiest people to help improve our quality of life,” Dr Tunney added.

“It appears that spending time relaxing is the secret to a happy life. Cost-free pleasures are the ones that make the difference — even when you can afford anything that you want.”

Source: University of Nottingham

Explore further: Mum in her 30s discusses realities of life with a 75% chance of Alzheimer's

Related Stories

Mum in her 30s discusses realities of life with a 75% chance of Alzheimer's

August 22, 2017
With a one in over 600 million chance of her parents both having the same rare, inherited gene, a young mum has spoken of the anguish of knowing she has a 75 percent risk of developing Alzheimer's in just a few years, and ...

Peer pressure? It's hardwired into our brains

September 6, 2011
The rewards outweigh the risks – when you're in a group, anyway.

Indian infant deaths: High but falling steadily

December 12, 2013
Having previously lost two babies to diarrhoea and dysentery, 25-year-old Suman Chandel lies on a bed in a clinic in remote northern India and smiles with relief.

One state's temporary gun removal law shows promise in preventing suicides

November 17, 2016
A Connecticut law enacted in 1999 to allow police to temporarily remove guns from potentially violent or suicidal people likely prevented dozens of suicides, according to a study by researchers at Duke and Yale universities ...

Kids in high-achieving schools: Addiction down the road?

May 31, 2017
They have what most would want - affluent upwardly mobile parents, living in comfortable homes in the suburbs, going to an elite high school and being groomed for the nation's best colleges. And they appear to thrive in this ...

Study finds the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives

March 16, 2017
New research from the University of Oxford has revealed that the more often people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives.

Recommended for you

We can read each other's emotions from surprisingly tiny changes in facial color, study finds

March 19, 2018
Our faces broadcast our feelings in living color—even when we don't move a muscle.

Social media use at age 10 could reduce wellbeing of adolescent girls

March 19, 2018
Social media use may have different effects on wellbeing in adolescent boys and girls, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

Study with infants suggests language not necessary for reasoning ability

March 16, 2018
A team of researchers from Spain, Hungary and Poland has found via a study with infants that language may not be a necessity for the ability to reason. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes ...

Hep C compounds alcoholism's effect on brain volume

March 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Alcohol dependence has deleterious effects on frontal cortical volumes that are compounded by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and drug dependence, according to a study published online March 14 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Study casts doubt on ketamine nasal sprays for depression

March 16, 2018
Researchers from the Black Dog Institute and UNSW Sydney have questioned the efficacy and safety of intranasal ketamine for depression, with their pilot trial stopped early due to poor side effects in patients.

Older adults' difficulties with focusing can be used to help put a face to a name

March 16, 2018
Everyone has experienced the awkward situation of meeting someone and then forgetting their name shortly after. Among older adults, this happens more often than not.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Oct 18, 2007
Ah, once again we see that happiness doesn't exactly require lots of money to spend. It's nice to see that sometimes the best things in life are fairly simple and inexpensive, yet truly wonderful.
5 / 5 (1) Oct 18, 2007
Now if only we could use the money to buy time in which to enjoy MORE of the small, simple things. :)
5 / 5 (2) Oct 19, 2007
Ok, happiness is cheap for a millionaire. Now consider how happy a person might be if they have to make the following kinds of decisions on a regular basis:
- The cost of that bar of chocolate equals the cost of a bag of rice, and the rice will feed them for two or three days.
- The bathroom is broken or so run-down that no amount of scrubbing can make it pleasant; a long soak in the bath would subject them to foul odors and perhaps even disease.
- Afternoons are spent working, every day, as are mornings, and many evenings. A snooze in the middle of the afternoon, even an inadvertent nodding off from being exhausted, will result in being fired. Fear = awake.
- A neighborhood park either doesn't exist or isn't safe. A leisurely stroll would only invite being raped, robbed, or killed.

No, money may not buy happiness, but a severe lack of it can put happiness largely out of reach.

BTW, I've lived through all of those scenarios, and the link between poverty and depression is real and has definable external causes. Want to really start beating back poverty?
- Create safe, pleasant public spaces within walking distances of neighborhoods, and enforce no-tolerance policies for troublemakers. Empower residents to take an active role in maintaining, upgrading, and monitoring their public space (community gardens, playground monitors, etc.)
- Change wage and hour laws to force employers to "hire permanent," pay wages sufficient to cover basic living expenses, and give employees some personal time off of work without risk of losing their job.
- Create community grocery co-ops within walking distance of neighborhoods that allow residents to buy fresh, healthy foods in quantities that can be used before spoilage (safe storage of food can be difficult in some buildings) at reasonable prices.
- Make fix-up money more readily available to low income tenants and landlords, and organize community improvement drives. Recruit professionals (electricians, plumbers, etc.) to act as consultants during fix-up events, and encourage home center stores to donate supplies and scratch-n-dent items for the fix-ups.

When you give a neighborhood some hope and a few needed resources, then motivate the people to help themselves...they eventually will. It takes some time for this to happen because it takes time to rebuild broken faith and hope.

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.