Can money buy happiness? Gallup poll asks, and the world answers

July 1, 2010, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Life satisfaction and enjoyment of life are two components of happiness. Life satisfaction is more closely associated with income, while positive feelings also depend on other factors, such as feeling respected and connected to others, researchers report. Credit: Debra Bolgla

A worldwide survey of more than 136,000 people in 132 countries included questions about happiness and income, and the results reveal that while life satisfaction usually rises with income, positive feelings don't necessarily follow, researchers report.

The findings, from an analysis of data gathered in the first Gallup World Poll, appear this month in the .

"The public always wonders: Does money make you happy?" said University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology Ed Diener, a senior scientist with the Gallup Organization. "This study shows that it all depends on how you define , because if you look at life satisfaction, how you evaluate your life as a whole, you see a pretty strong correlation around the world between income and happiness," he said. "On the other hand it's pretty shocking how small the correlation is with positive feelings and enjoying yourself."

The Gallup World Poll conducted surveys on a wide range of subjects in a representative sample of people from 132 countries from 2005 to 2006. The poll used telephone surveys in more affluent areas, and door-to-door interviews in rural or less-developed regions.

The countries surveyed represent about 96 percent of the world's population, the researchers report, and reflect the diversity of cultural, economic and political realities around the globe.

This "first representative sample of planet earth," the authors wrote, "was used to explore the reasons why 'happiness' is associated with higher income." The researchers were able to look at a long list of attributes of respondents, including their income and standard of living, whether their basic needs for food and shelter were met, what kinds of conveniences they owned and whether they felt their psychological needs were satisfied.

The surveys included a global life evaluation, which asked respondents to rate their lives on a scale that ranged from zero (worst possible life) to 10 (best possible life). Participants also answered questions about positive or negative emotions experienced the previous day. And the poll asked respondents whether they felt respected, whether they had family and friends they could count on in an emergency, and how free they felt to choose their daily activities, learn new things or do "what one does best."

Like previous studies, the new analysis found that life evaluation, or life satisfaction, rises with personal and national income. But , which also increase somewhat as income rises, are much more strongly associated with other factors, such as feeling respected, having autonomy and social support, and working at a fulfilling job.

This is the first "happiness" study of the world to differentiate between life satisfaction, the philosophical belief that your life is going well, and the day-to-day positive or negative feelings that one experiences, Diener said.

"Everybody has been looking at just and ," he said. "And while it is true that getting richer will make you more satisfied with your life, it may not have the big impact we thought on enjoying life."

More information: "Wealth and Happiness Across the World: Material Prosperity Predicts Life Evaluation, Whereas Psychosocial Prosperity Predicts Positive Feeling," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

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.

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.

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.

A little anger in negotiation pays

March 16, 2018
During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, according to a new study by management and business experts at Rice University and Northwestern University.

Research reveals brain mechanism involved in language learning

March 15, 2018
Learning a new language may be more of a science than an art, a University of Sussex study finds.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.9 / 5 (7) Jul 01, 2010
Money may not buy happiness, but money can buy a jet ski. I challenge anyone to frown on a jet ski.
5 / 5 (2) Jul 01, 2010
Money may not buy happiness, but money can buy a jet ski. I challenge anyone to frown on a jet ski.

Daniel Tosh reference. Well played.
5 / 5 (3) Jul 01, 2010
if money cant buy you happiness, then you dont know where to shop...
5 / 5 (5) Jul 01, 2010
Happiness is subjective, which makes this tired old question irrelevant.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 01, 2010
H = Your Happiness
M = Amount of money you need to consider it 'living comfortable'
P = Amount of Positive_Feeling (family, friendship, health, religion etc...) you need to consider it 'living comfortable'
x = (a scale of where you are relative to M)
y = (a scale of where you are relative to P)

H = f(Mx, Py)
5 / 5 (3) Jul 01, 2010
money allows one a worrisome-less life, thats all. It wont buy you happiness.. Sure I can go to best buy and buy the biggest baddest computer and all its accessories but in a couple of days after the newness wears off, its another piece of junk, one mans junk, another mans treasure. BUT where the difference is, people who dont have money worry, CONSTANTLY. Food, shelter, babys clothes and so forth.. When you have money you tend to worry less, which allows you to lead a happier life.. very simple.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 01, 2010
"Blessed (Happy) are they that mourn" - Jesus (Matthew 5:4)
Jul 01, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Jul 01, 2010
Money may not buy you happiness but at least you can be miserable in luxury :-)
not rated yet Jul 01, 2010
Money may not bring you happiness but it can take a heck of a load of stress off your shoulders.
not rated yet Jul 02, 2010
intelligence + money = Happiness. All those who disagree are rich bastards who don't know what it's like to be poor.
not rated yet Jul 02, 2010
"Blessed (Happy) are they that mourn" - Jesus (Matthew 5:4)

Good Luck!
1 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2010
Mercury 1, I have yet to meet a truly interesting owner of a jet ski.
Jet skis appear to be the preferred toy of inconsiderate show-offs, much like the 4WD morons who like to destroy pristine environments.
The way to stop them is to insist upon an IQ test before they can buy or ride/drive one.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2010
O! it's tough not to agree with you Au-Pu.

And then the ones who drive those big overfat environmentally disguisting wide 4wd's cause they just cannot seem to stop showing everyone saying look i'm rich...

While pretending not to see the poor beggar next to the road struggling to get a few pennies for a slice of bread, Pathetic doesn't even come close to describe it !!!
1 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2010
""On the other hand it's pretty shocking how small the correlation is with positive feelings and enjoying yourself."
Why is this shocking?
People earn positive feelings by accomplishments which are most likely not very enjoyable to accomplish.
If the correlation was high, we would never know as people would not accomplish and spend all their time in hedonistic activities.
not rated yet Jul 04, 2010
People are living in gradient driven reality, so they're the more happy, the more they're becoming richer and/or powerful in time and space (then their neighbors) in the same way, like probability function in quantum mechanics is driven both by kinetic, both by potential energy. IMO it's evolutionary feature, which forces us to search for new sources before the existing sources are depleted.

You can play with the MS IE applet linked above to understand both your happiness, both Schroedinger equation at the same moment. You can think the red line (quantum function) is your power level and the blue line (probability function i.e. sum of potential and kinetic energy) illustrates the level of your happiness.

This explanation enables us to understand, why every luxury becomes boring soon or later and why our wives tend to rearrange furniture in our houses occasionally.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2010
People are living in gradient driven reality

I would suggest people are adapted to change and have difficulty appreciating absolutes.
Billions of people today live better than the most wealthy monarchs 500 years ago or even 200 years ago. But they are still not satisfied.
Such adaptability is a successful survival trait enabling many to survive when the thin veil of civilization and technology has been peeled away.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 05, 2010
Some people choose to live in a gradient driven reality, and with money and greed as motivation, happiness will find a way out of their lives.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 05, 2010
What is 'gradient driven reality'?

money and greed as motivation, happiness will find a way out of their lives.

How do you know?
Money provides the means to help people. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are 'greedy' and are donating their billions to help others. That seems to be making them happy.
not rated yet Jul 05, 2010
The answer I got when I asked if I should marry for love or money.... "Its better to sit in the shade and fight than to work in the sun all day", so if you can handle a bit of bitching while your driving to the golf course in your range rover, money is the thing for you.
not rated yet Jul 05, 2010
Well there's a lot of current research that shows that money doesn't make anyone happy. What does make people happy is having the proper means by which to engage in activities, primarily social, that make people happy.

If you had the cash to pay all your bills and not need to worry about health or housing, wouldn't you enjoy spending a massive amount of free time, eating, drinking, and playing with friends in whatever activity you deem to enjoy? Of course.

Money doesn't do this, it simply allows a manner by which to procure things that do make you happy. Secondary reinforcement of Maslowe's Hierarchy.

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.